sri sri guru gauranga jayatah!
Issue 7, Fortnightly Centennial Edition
Posted: 30 September 2021
In honour of the centennial appearance year of
nitya-līlā-praviṣṭa oṁ viṣṇupāda
Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Vāmana Gosvāmī Māhārāja
Dedicated to and Inspired by
nitya-līlā-praviṣṭa oṁ viṣṇupāda
Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Māhārāja
The Importance of Observing Cāturmāsya-vrata
by Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Vāmana Gosvāmī Māhārāja
Presented in English for the first time
All are to observe Cāturmāsya-vrata
Even though Cāturmāsya-vrata is not mentioned among the sixty-four limbs of bhakti described in Śrī Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, Śrīman Mahāprabhu personally observed Cāturmāsya-vrata while staying in Purī, Śrī Raṅgam, and other places, thus imparting to the living entities of the world instructions on the necessity of following this vrata. It is not that this vrata is to be observed only by Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas; it is especially auspicious for everyone, for karmīs, jñānīs, yogīs, and those following smārta traditions. Although this vrata is part of vaidhi-bhakti, it is certainly to be followed by everyone in the course of their sādhaka lives. Supreme, liberated personalities, mahā-bhāgavatas and mahājanas, also observe this Cāturmāsya-vrata with intense loving attachment (anurāga) as they know it to be conducive to the pleasure (prīti) of Bhagavān.
The necessity and standard of observing vratas
In Bhaviṣya Purāṇa, it is described:
yo vinā niyamaṁ martyo vrataṁ vā japyam eva vā
cāturmāsyaṁ nayen mūrkho jīvann api mṛto hi saḥ
In other words, one who observes Cāturmāsya-vrata without rules, vows, and japa (regulated chanting) is a fool and, though alive, is as good as dead. Hence, if one follows this vrata without rules, in an irregular manner or as one pleases, there is no possibility of deriving auspiciousness from it. The Gītā scripture has explained that if one is incapable of determining what is one’s duty and what is not, then scripture alone is the only reliable source of information (pramāṇa). Therefore, if the sādhaka transgresses or abandons those prescriptions of scripture and acts according to his own whims, he will not gain perfection in his sādhana, nor will he ultimately attain the supreme destination.
Indifference to observing Cāturmāsya-vrata
Cāturmāsya-vrata must certainly be followed by people of all four varṇas and āśramas. Because the rules for this ancient vrata prescribed in scripture are considered difficult, the inclination to follow them is gradually disappearing from the heart of a society that is fond of merriment and leisure. These days, everyone pretends to be incapable, and because they do not consider it convenient to submit to niyama (rules of spiritual practice), they are displaying indifference to following all these vratas. This is a matter of great despair.
Most of those who do observe a vrata are displaying their conviction and sense of duty in regard to following vratas by simply following Dāmodara-vrata or Kārtika-vrata, which is prescribed as a “concession for those incapable” of following Cāturmāsya fully. Nowadays, besides Śrī Gauḍīya Vedānta Samiti, the proper practice of following Cāturmāsya-vrata is seen in very few places. It is impossible to gain Śrī Hari’s love or please Him if, despite being capable, one becomes prone to laziness in His service and disregards Cāturmāsya and other vratas that are favourable to such hari-sevā. This is the special instruction of all the sātvata-smṛti scriptures.
In many places in the Vedic scriptures, there has been mention of the performers of Cāturmāsya and Cāturmāsya as being part of the execution of karma. Cāturmāsya-vrata is also mentioned in the various Purāṇas and related texts.
The difference between the pāramārthika and vyavahārika practitioners
However, there is a difference of heaven and hell between how the pāramārthika (seeker of the supreme transcendental object) and the vyavahārika (seeker of material rewards) observe Cāturmāsya-vrata. The pāramārthika’s observance of Cāturmāsya-vrata is not like that of the vyavahārika person, who becomes enticed by hearing of the rewards of following a vrata and follows even viddhā (impure) Ekādaśī-vratas because he regards himself to be the enjoyer of those results. Nor is the pāramārthika’s observance like that of the āroha-vādīs* who hanker for liberation and invoke various types of activities to relinquish the fruits of action or to purify the mind. The purpose of the pāramārthika person’s observance of Cāturmāsya-vrata is the pleasure of Hari.
The Āpastamba-śrauta-sūtra states: “akṣayaṁ ha vai cāturmāsya-yājinaḥ—those who wish to attain interminable residence in the heavenly planets should observe Cāturmāsya-vrata.” We see this and various other statements, and though they are recommended for karmīs who wish to enjoy the results of their actions, we do not see any honor for such activities in Vedānta and other such scriptures. Śrīman Mahāprabhu said to the tattva-vādīs:
karma-nindā, karma-tyāga—sarva-śāstre kahe
karma haite prema-bhakti kṛṣṇe kabhu nahe
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līlā 9.263)
[All the scriptures condemn karma and advise one to relinquish it. One can never attain loving devotion for Kṛṣṇa by karma.]
For the karmī who hankers for the results of his actions and for the impersonalist jñānī, the observance of Cāturmāsya-vrata is simply one of the limbs of karma. This sort of conception and practice of Cāturmāsya-vrata as a karmāṅga (limb of karma) can never give rise to prema-bhakti. The instructor of all people, Śrīman Mahāprabhu, and various other ācāryas also displayed pastimes of observing Cāturmāsya. Is their observance of Cāturmāsya a limb of karma? What Śrī Gaurasundara and Mādhavendra Purīpāda have observed in order to teach others can never be a karmāṅga.
Many among the prākṛta-sahajiyās, who are immersed in the mire of illicit activity, abandon Cāturmāsya-vrata, thinking it to be a limb of karma. They remain absorbed in household life, associate constantly with their wives and children, and consume pāna, tobacco and other intoxicants. On the pretext of prasāda-sevā, they are attached to indulging in these sensually pleasing objects of enjoyment, thinking they constitute a limb of bhakti (bhakty-aṅga). In the absence of the shelter of sad-guru, the prākṛta-sahajiyās cannot appreciate the difference between the limbs of karma and the limbs of bhakti, between chanting with offenses (nāmāparādha) and proper chanting of nāma, and between service to Hari and sense gratification. Though they profess to despise karma, because ulterior desires (anyābhilāṣa) lurk in their hearts and because they are deprived of transcendental realization due to a lack of divine knowledge received from a sad-guru, they engage merely in deceit and heinous deeds in the name of performing the limbs of bhakti.
Translated from Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Vāmana Gosvāmī Māhārāja’s Prabandhāvalī
By The Rays of The Harmonist team
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