Shreeji Maharaj now explains the various Vratas or religious disciplines to be practised. For three Shlokas, he explains the various duties to be practised during Chaturmaas:
Visheshaniyamo Dharyaschaturmaasyeakhlilaurapi |
Ekasmichravane Maasi Sa Tvashaktaustu Minavau ||
Chaturmaas (four months) Vratas from Asadh Suda Ekadashi (11) to Kartak Suda Dwadashi (12) are to be observed.
All – men and women, should keep additional Niyams or Vratas during Chaturmaas. Shatanand Muni here makes a point of assumption – he assumes that we observe the basic Niyams anyway. As this is often not the case, we should really make more of an effort to observe the basic Niyams in Chaturmaas as well as performing additional Niyams.
Those who are not capable of four months of Vrata should do so for just the one-month of Shraavana. One should begin their Chaturmaas Vratas by observing a full day fast (Upavaas) on the first day Asadha Suda Ekadashi. Those who do not observe such Vrata are destined to suffer the sins of a full year. Hence those who observe such Vrata become free of such sin.
It is said that Shraavana Maas Vrata should be kept for a duration of six weeks, from the beginning of Chaturmaas up to the end of Shraavana Maas.
Chaturmaas (rainy season) is considered as Satva Guni. The four months of Unaro (hot season) are Tamo Guni and the four months of Siyaro (cold season) are Rajo Guni. Devtas also keep the Vrata of Chaturmaas performing great penance to please God.
Shree Nilkanth Varni performed great penance at Pulashram during Chaturmaas, thus setting an example for all to do the same. Chaturmaas are the four months when God’s Bhaktas should stay ‘awake’ in their devotion and faith in God by performing such Vratas and Niyams.
From all the various Niyams the Lord chooses eight which he himself considers as the best:
Vishnoha Kathayaha Shravanam Vachanam Gunakirtanam |
Mahapuja Mantrajapaha Stotrapathaha Pradakshinaha ||77||
Vishnu Katha or Shree Krishna Katha, such as Shrimad Bhagwat should be listened to (Shravanam). Indeed any such revered texts such as Gita, Ramayana, Vachanamrut are all worthy texts. Bhagwat explains the qualities of a Vakta (one who recites the scripture) and the Shrota (the listeners).
The desirable qualities of a Vakta are:
Yathaarthavakta – speaks the absolute truth
Shrutishastrasutraveta – who fully understands the teaching of the Vedas
Suvaagh – who has a pleasant style of speaking
Bodhandaksha – enlightening, perfect spiritual knowledge
Aryaha – renowned behavioural qualities
Shreekrushnabhakto – A devotee of Shree Krishna
Nijadharmanishto – a follower of personal Dharma
Jatya Dwijanmasya – born of the three upper castes
The desirable qualities of a Shrota are:
Swadharmannishta – the follower of personal Dharma
Suchirekachito – with sound’s pure mind
Bhaktaschatuvarnaja – A devotee of one of the four castes
Adatscha – who is respectful
Pugadhyacharvan – does not have a tendency to chew betel nut
Vanita Na Pashyannu – does not look at women (lustfully)
Shranishahino – without headwear (Pagri etc.)
Nalsascha – is not lazy
Mouni – observes the vow of silence
Na Praudhpado Na Cha Chagachloadhrim Pade – does not sit with a leg over leg
Dadhnaamsukveshtitadhrim – hands still and does not sit using a cloth to bind his legs
Pujitvaktruvanirduragraham – who praises the Vakhtas style of speaking
Krodhampi Tyajohmscha – who does not anger
One should build a habit of reading from Shastras and understand the qualities of God. Songs in praise of God should be sung in addition to reading. Sanskrit or Prakrit (Gujarati etc.) texts should be read. Such acts should be performed daily.
Mahapuja of God should be performed with Panchamruta Snaan (bathing the idol of God with milk, yoghurt, clarified butter, sugar and honey), Mahabhishek (sprinkling of water) and Mahanaiveda (offerings).
Ashtakshara Mantra Japa (chanting of the eight-syllabled Mantra), Vishnu Stotra or Vishnusahasrarama (thousand names of Vishnu) etc. should be chanted according to one’s ability, daily.
Pradikishana (circum-abulation) of the magnitude of 108 etc. should be performed.
Shastangpranascheti Niyama Uttamamataha |
Etesvekatmo Bhaktya Dhararniyo Visheshtaha ||78||
Shastang Pranaam – Astabhirangauha Sahita Shastang Pranatiha Pranamaha – Abulation by surrendering eight parts of one’s body (as explained before) should be performed.
In this way, God considers these eight Niyams great for Chaturmaas. They will derive fruits exceeding even those wished for.
Also, the use of ‘Cha’ in the Sanskrit text suggest that other such famed Niyams are also worthy of practice: Narad and Brahma in Skanda Puranaexplain, ‘One’s mind and senses should be concentrated upon God. Such time should be used for devotion and meditation. One should renounce all ego as it is like poison to the body. During this time when God sleeps, a man should always speak the truth as to do so pleases God. They should perform praise to Lord Vishnu and act to please him only. Chanting of his name derives salvation and so Chaturmaas should be used for remembrance of God. Brahmcharya (vow of celibacy) fuels Swadharma (duty) and therefore there is no other greater tool for such act. Anger, lust, selfishness and mundane desire are great enemies and so should be rejected during these months. One Niyam should be adopted to please God as a Bhakti-Niyam (such as one of the eight here mentioned over these two Shlokas).
The Niyams are of two types Samanya (ordinary to be practised without question by all) and Vishesha (additional as mentioned in these two Shlokas). Shatanand further explains the Samanya Niyamas to be observed over Chaturmaas. These Niyams are basic expectations of all devotees and so should be observed first and foremost. Bavishyotar Purana explains: ’In Shraavana Maas, one should refrain from all Shakas (specially prepared vegetables or beans/lentils); in Badarva, yoghurt; milk in Ashwin; and in Kartik month Dwidal (beans/lentils which can be split in two).’ In this way, the food types should be refrained from in the first, second, third and final months of Chaturmaas.
Skanda Purana further says, ‘In Varsha Rutu, when God sleeps, devotees of God should not sleep (in the sense that they should be spiritually awake in devotion to God). They should not sleep in a bed during such time (thus they should sleep upon the ground). Also, they should refrain from aubergines (Ringra), watermelon (Kalingra) and radishes (Mura). Inedible substances such as garlic and the like should be renounced with greater effort. For one month, one should refrain from contact with one’s own wife – living as a Brahmchari (celibate). One should overcome the senses and perform charitable acts.’
Achardipa explains, ‘God distances himself from those who partake in Ringra, Kalingra, food of the sacred Bila tree and rose extract (Gular).’ Apararkaexplains, ‘Brahmcharaya (celibacy), Sauch (cleanliness), Satya (truth) and refraining from meat are four of the greatest Niyams to be kept by all during Chaturmaas.’
Parashar Muni explains that the following are understood to be Mamsa (meat). ‘Animal hair, water extracted using a leather pail, fruit containing many seeds, a kind of pulse called Masur, cooked or prepared foods/vegetables obtained from a Brahmin, ready food which has salt added to it (in the sense that food is tasted to contain less salt and then salt is added), food not offered to God, unfiltered water, milk drank with sweets and milk obtained from animals other than cows, goats and buffaloes. These are comparable to meat in addition to the understood flesh definition of meat derived from animals. Sensible men renounce such things always and during Chaturmaas renounce such things more so.’ Other Vratas are defined in Vratahemadri.
Chaturmaas is a time of self-discipline to please the Lord Almighty. It is a time of spiritual awakenings and of Devotion to God over and above what we perform normally. It is a time of Vrata and Upavaas (fasting). We should all make an effort to do that much more to please God during these months. Such time is considered the greatest in the year and so penance during Chaturmaas will result in greater fruits.