Vrat - Resolution
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       =======  Understanding Hinduism  =======

Vrat-Resolution

Vrat - Resolution
Compiled by Shree Jaydevbhai Shukla
Shree Lakshminarayana Temple
Lenasia, Johannesburg

Disciplines such as religious fasting etc. that entail merits are generally called Vrat. To accept some rules of discipline is in itself a Vrat. For any advancement in life we have to accept some restrictive disciplines. A river is bound by the banks, tree is bound to earth, the strings of Sitar (musical instrument) are also bound and thereby music is produced. The essence of Himadri-Vrat chapter describes Vrat as a special undertaking, keeping some goal in mind, and making a resolution about it. In the spiritual field, to apply control over the pleasures of our sense organs, a solemn vow to observe regulatory discipline- that is Vrat.

The one who undertakes to observe Vrat is called Vratdhaari. He lives within the bounds of his vows, ever anxious to upkeep noble ideals. By being rock steady in the observance of Vrat and vows adds power to internal consciousness and that is why the followers of Vaidic culture, upon their children attaining understanding age, make them undergo the Yajnopavit (sacred thread) ceremony that urges them to a life within restrictive bounds. Those people whose life is devoid of any goal, Vrat, noble ideal or duty, are not able to achieve or do anything of importance.

Vrat is a resolution with a special purpose in mind. Great power is enfolded within such resolution. Great accomplishments like the creation of the universe, are achieved through such powers. The Upanishads describe this as "Ekoham Bahushyami…" God (Ishwar) bethought Himself ‘I will manifest and assume diverse names and forms’. He then underwent austerity. Meaning that resolution was made to encompass (Aitereya Upanishad).

Ishwar then prepared the five Tanmatras (subtle elements), and with the aid of resolution activated them (Aitereya Upanishad ). In the beginning all this was Atman (God) – one only. Besides Him there was no other for company. This Super soul then bethought Himself ‘This is My firm decision to create human beings’ (Aitereya Upanishad). The Rishis hint at the cryptic message that the great work like the creation of the universe was also accomplished only through (the aid of) resolution.

Resolution is a means to awaken our dormant powers. Just as a person will employ all his powers to (successfully) attain any difficult objective, in the same way, to accomplish the objective of his resolution, he gathers all his powers and uses them. In the manner of the feebleness of the scattered rays of the sun that have no effect on paper or cloth but can burn if they are concentrated (as through a magnifying glass), if a man gathers his unsteady mind and directs it to accomplishing a single task, his purpose will become fruitful. To make a resolution means to concentrate one’s powers.

In each field of activity in our lives, resoluteness of purpose is necessary to tread on the path of progress. Mahatma Gandhi said, "Life without solemness of purpose is like a house without foundation". The strength of such solemnness of purpose is what makes this world endure. Not to have such solemness of purpose means to live with wavering indecision. Lack of courage to adopt a resolution is a sign of weakness. Such people are unable to successfully tackle any job. According to Mr. James Allan, "As a matter of fact, the greatest weakness (shortcoming) of man is his lack of resoluteness of purpose". To remove this weakness, Vrats have been assigned a pride of place in Hindu religion. Through practice firm decisions become a matter of routine. The practical aspect of Vrat is closely linked to regulation of diet. When the observance of proper dietary principles becomes a habit, then, no matter what his field of activity is, such person’s resoluteness of purpose will always make him a leader. Thus for material and spiritual developments in life, it is absolutely necessary to cultivate the habit of Vrat.

Vrat does not mean instant liberation from sins (faults) but rather a resolution to the effect that from today, with complete purposefulness, we will try to progress towards our chosen goal, and will mend any mistakes. We shall fight the tendencies of laziness and procrastination that reside in the mind. The meaning of Vrat is, with firmness of purpose, make a resolution to progress in the direction of perfection. To err is human, but to be perfect is possible when we reach the heights of Sadhanaa (spiritual disciplines). Vrat is undertaken to reach such a stage.

Vrat is a kind of austerity. ‘Tapo dvandva sahanam’. Tap (austerity) means, for achieving any auspicious goal, in our (daily) life, be prepared to face with equanimity happiness and sorrow. This is the key to success in any field of activity. Tap (austerity) is the father of powers and accomplishments. Where there is Tap (austerity), there are to be found power, liberation, heaven, happiness, peace, bliss, wealth, knowledge, fame, and all. Any person who wants to lead a noble life must adopt Tap (austerity or Vrat) as his companion. All great people who have achieved success in the world have Tap (Vrat) hidden in their background. Those who do not undertake austerities (Tap or Vrat) face failures in their lives and blame destiny (for their failures). Despairing, they are not aware that they have dug up the very foundations of destiny and success.

Merely to observe the regulations regarding fasting is not a Vrat but proper conduct, love, disciplines, honesty, good manners, non-stealing, truth, non-killing (non-violence), unselfishness, etc., and with firmness of purpose to take a vow to practice these virtues, is also called a Vrat. The greatest Vrat is with resoluteness of purpose, to eliminate from our lives demoniac tendencies and to develop (acquire) godly qualities (daivy sampat or divine wealth).

Vrat bestows all kinds of advantage at the physical and spiritual levels. During the observance of vrat, one either completely abstains from food, or partly abstains from food and this gives physiological rest to the digestive apparatus, which in turn awakens and increases the digestive power, leading to ease (comfort) of digestion and purification of the mind. The basis of all these is dependant on healthy digestive apparatus and purity of mind. The physical body of a person who regularly observes Vrat remains free of disease. Vrat helps to prepare the proper mental groundwork for contemplation and meditation. Persons who over indulge in food exhibit grosser thoughts and intellect. To sharpen the intellect, our scriptures prescribe the sacred precept of Vrat. The thoughts that are produced on the day of Vrat embed their powerful influence on the mind. The preceptors of our religion have woven stories and morals around Vrat that inspire us and help us make our lives full of strength (full of confidence and virtues).

The fasting aspect of Vrat makes the mind strong and increases its firmness and the stories connected with Vrat, if their purport is understood, can transform the life of a person. Today, unfortunately, people listen to the stories for their entertainment values and do not attempt to understand the significance that lies buried within the stories and also do not apply their teachings in their lives.

In the Mahabharata, Santi parva (162-10) the following is written about Satya:

"That which is immutable, imperishable, eternal, everlasting, and is not subject to change, in other words, is ever the same".

There are two paths laid out in front of our lives. Prakriti (nature or matter) and Satyanarayana. There is ignorance on one side and bright sunshine of knowledge on the other side. There is darkness on one side and a heap of light shining brightly on the other side. The Upanishad provides guidance in life: "Asato Ma Sadgamaya, Tamaso Ma Jyotirgamaya, Mrityorma Amritam Gamaya". Satyanarayana Vrat points to the same direction. To progress on the path of truth is the main purpose of Satya Narayana Vrat.

Come, let us all learn to observe Vrat in its true spirit (after understanding its true meaning).

_______________

Resolution

By swami Shivananda
The Divine Life Society, Rishikesh

Resolution is fixity of purpose. It is steadiness of purpose. A man
of resolution is determined.He is courageous. He has steadiness
of purpose, especially in the face of dangers and difficulties.
He never looks back.

One who is firm and resolute attains success in his tasks. Failure is unknown to him. Optimism, courage, strength and fortitude are the companions of resolution.

Keep a dauntless spirit. March on, hero! Never despair. Your efforts will be crowned with success. Every cloud has a silver lining. All obstacles will be removed in due course.

A man of resolution has the nerve that never relaxes, the thought that never wanders, the will that never wavers. He always attains victory.

Resolution is your sole help at all times. March on steadily with sure and steady steps. Gird up your loins. Persevere.

You can conquer the world with this attitude. Nothing can bar your way if you are determined. Even if the whole world opposes you, you can march forward with undaunted steps.

All great men got success through their strong resolution. Lord Buddha set out with a firm resolve to attain the Truth- and he succeeded. Milarepa was firm in his desire to get initiation from his Guru- and he did.

God’s power knows no failure. It will reinforce your firm resolve if you trust Him. You can succeed in your schoolwork and in your exams, if you combine a firm resolution with diligent study.

_______________

From The Bhagavad Gita
Ch. 9- Verse 30

The Blessed Lord said:
Even if the most sinful worships Me, with devotion to non else, he too should indeed be regarded as righteous, for he has rightly (firmly) resolved.

[Note: Commentary by Swami Shivananda: By abandoning the evil ways in his external life and by the force of his internal right resolution, he becomes righteous and attains to eternal peace.]

_______________

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Shitala Satam (Saptami)
Compiled by Shree Veeranandaji Maharaj.

(Deity presiding over the disease of smallpox. On this day, food
cooked on the previous day (unheated) is eaten by the Vratdhari)

This vrat is observed in the month of Sravana on the seventh
day of the dark fortnight. On this day Shitalamata’s puja is performed
after taking bath with cold water. One cold meal is eaten during
the day.

It is written in the Skand Purana that donkey is the vehicle of Shitalamata. Shitalamata holds a broom in her one hand and a kalash (container with water) in her other hand. The one who observes the Shitala vrat bathes in a river or in a lake. There Shitaladevi’s image (murti) is placed on the banks of river or lake. Shitaladevi is offered cooked food and ghee. On this day cold food is eaten; the food that was cooked the previous day (cooked on chhatthi or sixth day). For the vratdhari (one who observes this vrat), it is forbidden to eat warmed or hot food on this day.

Those who can afford it, can make golden image of Shitaladevi and together with the image of the vehicle (donkey) place the devi's image on eight petalled lotus flower. Offer obeisance with joined palms saying ‘My pranam to Shitaladevi’ and make puja. In some places people offer raw flour and gor (molasses) as naivedya to the devi. It is customary to eat only one meal on Shitala Saptami day.

Katha(from Bhavishyottar Purana)

In the olden days, Hastinapur was ruled by king Indralumna. His wife’s name was Pramila who was full of faith and devotion and was keen on performing religious ceremonies and rituals. They had a son, Mahadharma by name and their daughter’s name was Shubhakaari. She was given in marriage to prince Gunvaan, son of king Sumati who ruled Kaundinyanagar.

Prince Gunvaan lived up to his name. He was a virtuous prince. A year after the wedding, Gunvaan went to his in-laws to fetch his wife. The king (his wife’s father) asked his son-in-law to stay over because the next day was the day of Shitala Saptami vrat. The king invited a Brahmin and his wife for the ceremony of Shitala Saptami vrat. The king’s daughter Shubhakari mounted a chariot and with her female friends set out for the puja ceremony of Shitaladevi. The puja was to take place by some lake.

Unfortunately, they took a wrong turn and got lost. Leaving the chariot, they started walking on foot, and dispersed in different directions. Princess Shubhakari was overcome by fatigue and sat under a tree. She saw an elderly woman approaching her and asked her for directions.

“O girl, follow me and I will lead you to a lake” said the old woman and took them to a lake. The princess bathed in the lake and with devotion and faith, placed the image of Shitaladevi on a makeshift platform of stone. The old lady was herself Shitaladevi. She was well pleased. Placing her hand on the head of Princess Shubhakari she asked her to state her wish.

The princess said: “Mother, I shall surely ask when the need arises”.

Then the old lady (Shitaladevi) escorted the princess and her female friends to the lake where they were to meet the Brahmin and his wife. The Brahmin’s wife was heard crying aloud. Princess Subhakari went to her and saw that her husband was lying dead, apparently bitten by a snake.

Princess Shubhakari again bathed in the lake and concentrated her mind upon Shitaladevi and stated her wish: “Mother, please bring back to life this Brahmin”.

Bhagavati Shitaladevi was pleased and restored life to the Brahmin. Everybody was full of joy. They all performed Shitaladevi’s puja and returned home

People of Hastinapur were filled with awe on hearing that the dead Brahmin was brought back to life. The citizens together with the parents of the princess made a murti of Shitaladevi and celebrated this day in the manner of a festival. After staying for a few more days, Princess Shubhakari went with Prince Gunvaan to her in-laws. There also, being impressed by Shitalamata, they developed faith and devotion. It is said that the children of those who are Shitala vratdhai (who observe this vrat) do not suffer from smallpox and that their wishes get fulfilled.

_______________

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Nori-Nem
Compiled by Shree Veeranandaji Maharaj.

Nori-Nem vrat (resolution) carries great significance. This vrat is observed in the month of Sravana on the ninth day of the bright fortnight. Mostly women observe this vrat. Women who have become mothers do the ritual ceremonies as follows:

On this day women get up early in the morning and after taking morning bath and wearing clean clothes, worship the image of a mongoose. Usually a Brahmin is asked to make a murti of a mongoose from the flour of juvar corn and turmeric (haldi). Place the murti on a baajat (square stool) for puja. Ingredients for the puja include mung beans, juvar, baajari and unhusked grains. These are offered to the mongoose. Thereafter these ingredients are given over to the Brahmin. Charity is an important element of this vrat and therefore, according to means, give to Brahmins and to deserving charities.

The woman observing this vrat usually would include in her meals mung beans and grams (chana). Roti can be made from chana flour or Mung beans flour. Unhusked pulses can also be used for meals.

The story connected with this vrat is set out in brief as follows:

Katha

There was a poor Brahmin. His wife was full of faith and devotion displaying lots of spirituality. She had unswerving faith in the gods and goddesses. She had become a mother and loved her infant child more than her own life.

This woman used to observe the vrat of Nori-Nem and in due course she obtained a great reward for observing this vrat.

One day her infant child was sleeping in the cot. She went to the village well to fetch water for her house. Her husband had gone to the temple. Thus her infant was left alone in the house. Just then a black snake slowly descended from the roof of the house and climbed upon the cot. The infant in the cot was awake with an innocent smile on the face. How was the infant to know that death was staring face to face? The snake kept staring at the infant and then raised its hood in preparation for striking the infant. Within a fraction of a second, before the fangs of the snake can deliver its deadly poison to the infant’s feet, a mongoose caught hold of the snake and removed it from the cot.

Just then the infant’s mother returned to the house. She saw the mongoose and the snake and immediately realised what had happened. Her vrat of Nori-Nem was rewarded. Devata had come as a mongoose to save the life of her child.

===============

Related articles

Mind Power - Affirmations
Fasting - Religious

Moon calendar 2009
Hindu Festivals 2031
Mind

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