Only Five Days Left Bhisma-Pancaka
http://www.vnn.org/editorials/ET0111/ET28-6993.html
BY SRILA DASA

EDITORIAL, Nov 28 (VNN) The holy month is Kartika is quickly ending. Regrettably, most of the readers of this text, like myself, are not in physically in Vrndavan to observe this most auspicious occasion. Perhaps, also like myself, you may have not taken advantage of this holy month to accelerate your devotion by increasing the activities in devotional service of hearing, chanting, remembering, etc., and taking vows to decrease our material entanglement (such as rising early, fasting, etc.) What is to be done? Are our lives totally wasted?

Mahaprabhu has explained that just as Ekadasi is the holiest of days, Kartika is the holiest of months. What is not so well-known, however, is that the last five days of Kartika are especially important.

[Excerpts from "Vaisnava-kanthahara, compiled by Krsna-Balarama Swami)

"The last five days of Kartika month are known as Bhisma-Panacaka. Grandfather Bhisma fasted for these five days, preparing to give up his life. However one observes Kartika-vrata, he should intensify it for the last five days. The best way to observe the Kartika-vrata is to abstain from eating grains for the whole month, and to take only milk or water for the last five days. If one eats grains during the month, he should avoid them for the last five days. Also, one should only eat once a day. This is the proper procedure [for strict adherence]."

"This five day fast is difficult for those people who are not serious and who are hypocrites. If someone observes this fast, he is considered to have observed all other fasts, because it is greatly meritorious and frees one from great sins. Therefore, everyone should make a great endeavor to fast on these last five days of Bhismadeva.

"The fast should begin by remembering Bhismadeva on the Ekadasi day and should end on Purnima [the full moon]. One should eat only vegetables or fruits and should worship Lord Krsna. If he needs to eat, he should do so only in the evening. A woman can also observe this fast by the suggestion of a twice-born, and if a widow observes this fast, she can also attain liberation and happiness."

"All of one's material and spiritual desires can be fulfilled and all of the senses can be controlled by following this five-day fast. One should follow this Kartika fast in a most auspicious place of pilgrimage. If one follows this Kartika fast, one can obtain the results attainable from fasting on the auspicious fasting days for a whole year".

"Srila Suta Goswami says in the Padma Purana, Uttarakhanda, 'This liberating fast is unknown even to the demigods. If one listens to what I have said and fasts on these five days, even if he had sex with an unqualified woman (his sister, daughter, mother, etc.), he becomes free from that sin" Even if someone attentively listens to this narration, he Also achieves happiness. I tell you the truth again and again that one should keep this fast secretively, and continue performing it unceasingly - such a person surely achieves liberation."

"In the month of Kartika, which is very dear to Sri Hari, one who bathes early in the morning attains the merit of bathing in all places of pilgrimage. Anybody who offers a the Lord a ghee lamp in the month of Kartika, O brahmana, becomes free from all kinds of sins, such as killing a brahmana, and he goes to the abode of Lord Hari." (Brahma khanda ).

Kartika vratinam vipra yathokta karinam naram
Yama dutah palayante simham drstva yatha gajah
Srestham visnu vipra tat tulya na satam makhah
Krtva fratum urje svargyam vaikuntham kartika vrati
(Padma Purana)

"Suta Goswami says, "If anyone fasts and observes the Kartika-vrata according to the rules and regulations, the Yamadutas, the messengers of Yamaraja, run away from him, just as an elephant runs away by seeing a lion. This dear fast [vrata] of Lord Visnu is even better than performing one hundred great sacrifices that would take him to heaven because the person who observes the Kartika-vrata goes to the spiritual world."

Sulabha mathura bhumau praty abdam kartikas tatha
Tathapi samsarantiha nara mudha bhavambudhau
Yani sarvani tirthani nada nadyah saransi ca
Kartika nivasanty atra mathure sarva mandale
(Padma Purana)

"Although one can easily reach Mathura [Vraja Mandala] on this earth, and although Kartika month is easily observable, and although in the month of Kartika all of the places of pilgrimage, oceans, rivers, and lakes come to the Mathura area, still, those human beings who are foolish and suffering in the ocean of material existence do not take advantage of it."

It is advised that it is better to carefully follow the scriptural injunctions to advance in spiritual life than to be lazy and think that it is not necessary.

Vaisnavo na sa mantavyah samprapte kartike mune
Yo na yacchati mudhatma dipam kesva sadmani

"O sage, that foolish person who does not offer a lamp in Lord Kesava's temple during Kartika is not considered a Vaisnava."

The conclusion is, as Lord Brahma tells Narada in the Skanda Purna: 'O son Narada, the month of Kartika is very dear to Lord Kesva. If anyone acts meritoriously in this month just to please Lord Visnu, he receives unlimited results"

The point I want to emphasize is that Kartika is not just about fasting. The most important thing is to somehow or another increase our activities in devotional service, especially during this holy month. If hundreds of millions of Islamic faithful can follow severe vows of fasting during their month of Ramadan (now), we should be able to perform some special austerities to please the Lord of Kartika, Sri Damodara, as it has been prescribed and laid down by our acharyas.

Radharani is Herself the Goddess of Vrndavan, who maintains the vows of and directly reciprocates with Her devotees during this, holy month, which is also called Urja-vrata.

Vrndavan-dhama, ki jaya!
Kartika-vrata, ki jaya!
Urja-vrata, ki jaya!
Bhisma-Pancaka, ki jaya!
Damodara-lila, ki jaya!
Jaya Sri Sri Radha-Damodara!
Jaya, jaya Sri Radhe!