Month of Service—Life of Service

His Divine Grace Om Vishnupad
Srila Bhakti Nirmal Acharya Maharaj
13 October 2019, Kolkata

 

Today Kartik-vrata, or niyom-seva, starts. Our temple observes it from purnima to purnima, and some other temples do it from dvadasi to dvadasi.

One day I asked Gurudev what niyom-seva meant. Gurudev joked in reply, "You know that 'niyom' means 'rules' and 'seva' means 'service'! Rules of service." He explained that every temple always follows it, but it is actually very difficult to follow Rupa Goswami. Such life is extremely strict, and it is very difficult to follow these rules. For example, in niyom-seva month you must sleep on the floor and take prasadam from a plate on the floor without using your hands (like a cow). It is very difficult. Still, every temple observes niyom-seva, and some devotees in our temple do it as well. You cannot take beans, lau (white pumpkin), tomato, and some other vegetables during the Kartik month.

There was also one story in Gurudev's time. When Damodar Maharaj was in charge of our Kaikhali temple, he was always strict and practised in a very pure way, but Gurudev told him, "You cannot make ornaments with pure gold. You must give some alloy, then only can you make an ornament from it." One day, the pujari in Kaikhali cooked some patal (patal is not taken in Kartik month), and willingly or unwillingly (I do not know it) he put that patal subji on Damodar Maharaj's plate. Damodar Maharaj jumped up and started shouting at him. He left Kaikhali and came to Gurudev. Gurudev was resting at that time (you know that Gurudev always takes noon prasadam very early, at 11:30-11:45 a.m.). So, when Damodar Maharaj came, Gurudev's servitor told him that Gurudev was resting. Damodar Maharaj stayed and waited—he was sitting, sitting, and sitting. Then, Gurudev woke up at about 2:30 p.m. and was told that Damodar Maharaj was waiting outside to see him. Gurudev was surprised, "It is 2:30 now, why has he come? He is supposed to be resting." The servitor replied, "Some problem has happened." Gurudev said, "OK, call him in." Damodar Maharaj came inside and said, "I will not stay in that temple. I will not take prasadam from that pujari's hands again! He must leave, then only I will go back there! Why did he put patal on my plate?!" At first, Gurudev told him, "Maharaj, those who do niyom-seva, who follow all rules and regulations are the highest class of Vaishnavs and they will never see patal on their plate—they will always see prasad. I do not take patal, I take prasadam, then why do you take or see patal?" Then, Gurudev explained to him, "You are in charge of the temple, you maintain the temple, but nobody wants to go there because you are always strict." You know, Damodar Maharaj would send somebody to the market to buy one-two-rupee worth of kacha lanka (green chilli) and would expect to get a receipt for it! How will the man selling chilli give a receipt? He has no paper, no pen! He is not that kind of man who gives receipts at the market, but Damodar Maharaj demanded the receipt. That is why Gurudev told that Damodar Maharaj was extremely strict and nobody wanted to stay with him. Gurudev sent that boy to Kaikhali and told him to please tolerate Damodar Maharaj, that Damodar Maharaj was very strict, but a good man. So, Gurudev told Damodar Maharaj, "If he leaves, who will be the pujari? Will you do the puja and cook yourself? If you can do everything yourself, then I do not mind it, I can take the pujari to another place. Otherwise, if you tell this boy to get out, where will I get a new pujari?" Gurudev joked, "I am an old man—I cannot produce a new boy now." He also said, "Maharaj, you are doing this niyom-seva for yourself and you want to oust this boy because he has made a mistake and given you patal, but if he leaves, it will hamper the service to Radha Raman. Who will be responsible for this?" I was there when Gurudev told him that (in Bengali), and I heard what Gurudev had told him.

I remember also very well what Gurudev said (in Bengali also)—Gurudev said that niyom-seva means following rules and regulations, but in the temple, those who want to be a proper devotee, who want to follow Krishna consciousness, they always follow rules and regulations—they always follow Gurudev's order, Gurudev's instruction. In other words, niyom-seva means rules and regulations of service, but those who want to be a devotee, who wants to be a proper devotee, always, all the time follow rules and regulation—they do niyom-seva all year. Proper sannyasis or proper brahmacharis practise niyom-seva all year round. Why is it necessary to observe only one month? Only one month is not sufficient. Proper practitioners will do niyom-seva during all their life, until their death—they always chant, they always think about and engage themselves in service of the Lord. However, if one does not follow these rules and regulations, if one goes against rules, for them it is necessary to observe this niyom-seva month. That is what Gurudev told. These are the main things.

I remember one or two years ago one devotee did not take prasadam at the temple—he would collect bhoga, offer it to the Deities, but he would not take prasadam. What did he eat? He would go to the house of one lady who would cook for him during the niyom-seva month. When I heard this, I told him, "You go there by motocycle late at night after the Deities go to rest, take prasadam and come back. It does not look good, and everybody in the district say bad things about you. Moreover, a lady cooks for you and you think you are becoming a great Vaishnav. It is not good for you." He understood that he should not do this.

Everybody wants to do niyom-seva, but suppose we go to Vrindavan—we spend one-two days on the train, how can we do niyom-seva there? Where will we get such things on the train? Also, you are supposed to cook atop chal (raw, not parboiled rice), it takes a long time to cook such rice and it is very difficult to digest it—taking such rice creates a lot of stomach problem for me. Gurudev also could not tolerate that kind of rice. You know that when Gurudev visited foreign countries, he would always carry good quality parboiled rice from India. Also, you are supposed to make only one subji, mix with with dal and serve this mixed subji with rice. When we stayed in the Nabadwip temple, we would do it for three days in Gurudev's time. However, if you give that kind of prasadam when so many devotees come for Param Guru Maharaj's festival, everybody will be unhappy.

Also, niyom-seva is not for the Deities. Just as when we follow Ekadasi, we do not offer only Ekadasi bhoga to the Deities on this day (we offer all the other things too—rice, dal, subji, etc.) Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu also followed Ekadasi. Guru Maharaj, Gurudev followed Ekadasi. Now that Gurudev is in samadhi, we offer him rice, dal, subji, everything on Ekadasi, but when Gurudev was present, he showed the example to us—because he is the teacher, if he does not show the example, how will we know it then? That is why he followed all rules and regulations. Niyom-seva is also like that.

We do not stop anybody—if anybody wants to do it, they can do it, but through service. You follow Ekadasi, you do niyom-seva, and you do not do any service—not like that. Sometimes people also go to Vrindavan at this time and for one month they only chant on their beads and do nothing. If somebody wants to do niyom-seva, I have no objection, Gurudev also did not prohibit anyone—if somebody wants to do it, they can do. But I cannot tell you that you have to do it because it is very difficult to follow niyom-seva month.

Kartik, or Damodar, month is the dearmost month of Srimati Radharani, of Sri Kirtika-nandini. Today is 13 October, Sunday, and it is still Padmanabha month—Damodar Month has not strated yet. Damodar month starts from Monday, and today is the beginning of the niyom-seva month.

Jay Srila Guru Maharaj ki jay.

 

 

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'He is the best of the paramahamsas and the guardian of the supreme wealth (Krsna-prema). He accepted the robes of a sannyasi to deliver the fallen. His feet are served by the best of the sannyasis. Eternally I offer my obeisance to my master's feet.'
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