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Keśava-vrata

[Hari-katha inspired by Guru-varga]

Our lives are not meant to be spent like animals. Our goal for this life should be to establish a strong relationship with Guru-pāda-padma. In order to achieve this goal, it is imperative that we seriously follow bhakti’s rules and vratas. Even if we are week, we must try sincerely. Hari, Guru, and Vaiṣṇavas will give strength and will patiently help those who endeavor to follow. If we are careless in this life then we will remain in the cycle of birth, death, and suffering.

The Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇavas mention all vratas, such as Ekādaśī, Janmāṣṭamī, and even Keśava-vrata in their calendars. I will touch on the subject of Keśava-vrata for a few minutes. Keśava, alone and unhappy in the fortress of Dvārakā, prayed to the Vraja-devīs, “No one really loves Me here. I fulfill their desires and this makes them happy. But the next moment they have more desires that they want Me to fulfill. This is why they show affection to Me. This is why they have kept Me here. But in Vraja-bhūmi everyone lives only to please Me. Dear gopīs, now I am unhappy. Please make Me joyful again. When I am with you I am happy. But how can I return? I tell My devotees that this world is not good and that they should renounce all attachments and come to Me. But now, they have not only come to Me, they have arrested Me!”

Keśava continued, “I spoke so many things:

sarva-dharmān parityajya
mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja
ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo
mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ
Bhagavad-gitā 18.66

 

[Completely abandoning all types of duties, fully surrender to Me alone. I shall liberate you from all reactions to sin. Do not grieve.]

yat karoṣi yad aśnāsi
yaj juhoṣi dadāsi yat
yat tapasyasi kaunteya
tat kuruṣva mad-arpaṇam
Bhagavad-gitā 9.27

 

[O Kaunteya, whatever activities you perform, whatever you eat, whatever you sacrifice and give in charity and whatever austerities you perform, do so as an offering to Me.]

man-manā bhāva mad-bhakto
mad-yājī māṁ namaskuru
mām evaiṣyasi yuktvaivam
ātmānaṁ mat-parāyaṇaḥ
Bhagavad-gitā 9.34

 

[Always absorb your mind in Me, become My devotee, worship Me and offer obeisances unto Me. In this way, with mind and body fully surrendered in My service, you will certainly achieve Me.]

“I preach this. But now these people have arrested Me and will not let me go. They do not really know how to please Me, nor is this their desire. Only someone with relationship with My followers is truly My follower. These people who have trapped Me here don’t have affection for you, the Vrajavāsīs; they only like Me.”

Some people come to the temple and say, “Oh, that brahmacārī is mine. I shall have him. He shall be the object of my sense gratification.”

To those that think like this, we say, “Have you come here for guru-sevā or for stealing Gurudeva’s property? Is it your purpose to destroy Gurudeva’s garden, which he put so much time, care, and energy into making? Gurudeva works hard to make nice brahmacārīs and sannyāsīs but you want to steal them. This is not bhakti.”

Bhagavān brings living entities to Him, but they all want to engage Him in what is helpful for them. Bali Mahārāja made the Lord his gatekeeper. Others pray to God for protection of their head, shoulders, thighs, feet, and all body parts separately. They want God to work hard for their sake.

“How can I be free?” Keśava prayed.

The Vraja-devīs heard Keśava’s prayers and answered Him. “Will you follow our advice?” they asked.

“Yes.”

“We want only Your happiness. We know You are suffering there. We also know how You can be freed. But do You promise to do as we advise?”

“Yes, yes.”

“We have one-pointed love for You. We are saraṇāgata. We have given up everything for You. Pati-sutānvaya-bhrātṛ-bāndhavān, ativilaṅghya te ‘nty acyutāgatāḥ—we have completely forsaken all our relatives to be with You. But till now, You have not made such a sacrifice. You now have no strength to free Yourself. You are alone. If You promise to do as we say, You will have relief.”

“I promise to do whatever you say. I promise!”

The Vraja-devīs said, “Then take sannyāsa. Renounce all attachments, ties, and obligations. You will have to give up all Your friends and relatives. You will have to renounce society, comforts, and all duties and learn to follow our rules. Do You agree to this?”

“Yes. I will take sannyāsa from Keśava Bhāratī. But in the meantime, I need practice. I will follow a vrata that will teach Me how to follow this advice.”

Keśava-vrata is the vrata of renunciation, and that is why people are afraid of it. If you follow this vrata you will surely take up sannyāsa-dharma. You will be a follower of the Vraja-devīs and full of strength.

The Vraja-devīs instructed Kṛṣṇa to chant the gopī-mantra—the sannyasa-mantra.

Keśava said, “I will absorb My mind in Vraja-bhūmi and its residents. I will bathe and become submerged in vraja-rasa-dhara, the flow of Vraja’s nectar. I will stay near Vṛndā-devī.

Keśava’s promise to the Vraja-devīs was fulfilled in Kali-yuga, when He accepted sannyāsa and went to Jagannātha Purī. In that holy place, He discussed the topics of the Vrajavāsīs and their prema with Svaraupa Dāmodara and Rāya Rāmānanda. He did not allow anyone else to meet with Him, saying, “ I am now a sannyāsī.” When Keśava became a one-pointed, surrendered follower of the Vraja-devīs, He became supremely happy.

This is Keśava-vrata. May our observance of Keśava-vrata proceed successfully.

[CC-by-NDNC Bhakta Bandhav]

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