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What to do during an eclipse

Tuesday, 22 May 2012 / Published in Articles / 4,473 views

By Shyamasundara Dasa

Dear Maharajas, Prabhus and Matajis,

Please accept my humble obeisance. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

I am often asked about eclipses and what to do, often just as they are about to happen such that I can’t respond in time.

The following information about what a temple should do during an eclipse is applicable for both solar and lunar eclipses and can be filed away for future references as there are a minimum of 3-4 eclipses every years with as many as 7 being possible.

You only need to act if the eclipse is visible in your location. If an eclipse is obscured by cloud cover you would still need to take action.

Your humble servant

Shyamasundara Dasa
———

Dear Maharajas, Prabhus and Matajis,

Please accept my humble obeisance. All glories to Srila Prabhupada. Bhakti-vijna-vinasa Narasimhadeva Bhagavan ki jaya!

I have done some preliminary research into the eclipse question, that is, what should we do during a solar or lunar eclipse? I was inspired to do this research by His Grace Bhima Prabhu who recently sent me the following text:

From: Bhima (das) ACBSP (BBT India, Juhu, Mumbai – IN)

Subject: Re: eclipse question
———–

I will keep my eye for any information on this subject. I think the first place to start would be to see what the Gaudiya Math follows, that may answer all our questions.

Dhananajay prabhu in Vrindavan said he asked Srila Prabhupada what to do for the eclipse. Srila Prabhupada replied do as the other temples are doing in Vrindavan.

Dhanajaya said that Prabhupad wanted us to be accepted by the locals so he gave that instruction.

My question is why didn’t he give that instruction in Mayapur and other temples in India?

ys Bhima das

I then asked HH Bhakti Vikasa Svami what was the practice of 108 Bhakti Siddhanta Sarasvati Thakura regarding eclipses as maharaja is writing what will be the definitive biography of Bhakti Siddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. He said that as far as he knew BSST continued the Deity worship and directed me to someone in Mayapura named Svetadwipa Prabhu who is very knowledgeable about these things. I called him over the phone and will meet with him when I go to Mayapura next time for more details. But in mean time this is what he told me over the phone when I asked what was the standard that BSST kept for Deity worship during a solar or lunar eclipse. He said that regular Deity worship would go on behind closed doors but outside there would be loud Hari Nama Sankirtan with the chanters specifically instructed to be meditating on the Holy Name of the Lord. When I asked what was the pramana for that he said there was lots of texts by Madhvacarya etc but specifically referred to a text named Sri Caitanya Siksamrita by Bhaktivinode Thakura which discussed various kinds of impurities and how to reverse them.

He mentioned that there are different types of contamination: Sthan jata apavitra, Kala jata apavitra and Patra jata apavitra which refer to contamination of the place, time and pot (or ingredients of worship) respectively. An eclipse is contamination of the time element. Bhaktivinode Thakura explains in Sri Caitanya Siksamrita that the way to purify contamination of the time element is with the chanting of the Holy Name. Hence, under the aegis of Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Sarasvati Thakura the nitya seva of the arca murtis continued as explained above during an eclipse.

Now in response to the question asked by Bhima Prabhu “My question is why didn’t he give that instruction in Mayapur and other temples in India?” My tentative response (subject to revision on receiving more information) would be that in Mayapura where we Gaudiya Vaisnavas are practically the only force then our standard is the standard followed by everyone. But in other parts of India we are not dominant so it may be wise to go along with the standards of others if we want to be accepted. Then after we are accepted we can set our own standards if we want to.

When I go to Mayapura next month I will try to get more information on this subject.

Your humble servant

Shyamasundara Dasa

5 comments

  1. 0
    gaurakeshavadas ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    There is no doubt that the best thing to do during an eclipse is chanting the holy name and bathing in a holy body of water. This can easily be seen from Prabhupada’s books. Deities of the Lord never become contaminated however pujaris, cooks, water, flowers, cooked food (bhoga), etc. are subtly contaminated. It is an offense to offer worship in a contaminated condition. Therefore as in other Vaisnava temples I would suggest that food not be cooked, offered, and pujaris cannot offer any item during such a contaminated time. After the contaminated period is over, then one must take bath and then cook and/or offer any item to the deity. However is makes no sense to do so in a contaminated state. This is why temples all over India are closed and deity worship stopped during such times. Such rules of deity worship are different from the rules for chanting the holy name which can be done at any time, place or circumstance. If the opposite is true, if we can offer anything in a contaminated state in deity worship then why does the sastra forbid it in so many other cases? It is not that we must search for a rule that specifically states that we must stop worship when contaminated. Do I really have to have a rule for taking a bath first before doing deity worship? Since you’re body and even mind may be subtly contaminated during an eclipse how can one not purify oneself as fully as possible before performing deity worship? During the eclipse at every moment one is being again contaminated by the influence of the eclipse how then can one perform any ritual act that requires purity? Chanting on the other hand requires no state of ritual purity thus hearing and chanting the holy name or the qualities and pastimes of the Lord during eclipse is completely acceptable.

  2. 0
    Madhavananda Das (Orissa) ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Nice points from Gaura Keshava Prabhu. Someone may say that we only need to chant and that purifies us both internally and externally. That is a fact, however it does not purify the items we offer.

    I have a few questions connected to this topic that I wonder if Gaura could address: If all bhoga and other items are considered contaminated by the eclipse does that contamination go away after the eclipse or do the items need to be purified afterwards? And in that case what about the grains growing in the farmer’s field etc? I’ve heard that some temples place kusa grass over the bhoga.

    If you have any further comments or information on this topic I would appreciate it.

  3. 0

    You asked Gaura Kesava Prabhu on this issue, but here is my understanding anyhow, it is just the time period that gets contaminated with the influence of Rahu. So the constant chanting of the Maha mantra has to be done.Actually Kali yuga is constantly shadowed by irreligious activities, so to constantly stay uncontaminated we should constantly chant Hare Krishna .Kirtaniya sada Harih.Lord Caitanyas and Haridas Thakura chanted 192 rounds daily and Lord Caitanya advised to chant at least 100.000 names, 64 rounds…Srila Prabhupada made it minimum 16 for his struggeling disciples.
    There is a nice vers in Narayana Kavacha:

    Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 6.8.27-28

    yan no bhayaḿ grahebhyo ‘bhūt

    ketubhyo nṛbhya eva ca

    sarīsṛpebhyo daḿṣṭribhyo

    bhūtebhyo ‘ḿhobhya eva ca

    sarvāṇy etāni bhagavan-

    nāma-rūpānukīrtanāt

    prayāntu sańkṣayaḿ sadyo

    ye naḥ śreyaḥ-pratīpakāḥ

    May the glorification of the transcendental name, form, qualities and paraphernalia of the Supreme Personality of Godhead protect us from the influence of bad planets, meteors, envious human beings, serpents, scorpions, and animals like tigers and wolves. May it protect us from ghosts and the material elements like earth, water, fire and air, and may it also protect us from lightning and our past sins. We are always afraid of these hindrances to our auspicious life. Therefore, may they all be completely destroyed by the chanting of the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra.

  4. 0
    Shyamasundara Dasa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    A few points to consider:

    In other temples all over India, other than Gaudiya temples, they do not have regular Hari Nama Sankirtana, what to speak of during eclipses. Thus they need to stop what they are doing because everything will get contaminated.

    The Holy Name of Lord Krsna, Nama Prabhu is non-different from Lord Krsna, it is Krsna Himself and thus is imbued with inconceivable potencies more than adequate to neutralize any impurity caused by an eclipse.

    Of the several forms of bathing there is mantra-snana, bath by mantra. What could be more purifying than the Name of Lord Krsna. If one can bath by mantra one can also decontaminate one’s cloths and other dravyas by mantra in this case Krsna’s all powerful Holy Name.

    If chanting the Name of the Lord can purify my eternal soul it can purify anything, including the subtle contamination caused by an eclipse.

    Lord Krsna in His form of the Holy Name is competent to purify the whole atmosphere in the temple including all the bhoga, flowers, clothing, etc.

    To imply otherwise is to suggest that the material contamination associated with the eclipse is more powerful than Krsna, which is an absurd proposition.

    To minimize the glories (and potency) of the Holy Name of the Lord is the 5th Nama aparadha.

    Therefore I have faith in the instructions of my param gurus Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Sarasvati Thakura and Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura that simply by the purposeful chanting of the Holy Name of Krsna removes all contamination caused by an eclipse.

    Yhs

    Shyamasundara Dasa
    http://www.ShyamasundaraDasa.com
    krsne matirastu

  5. 0

    Actually many vaisnavas in the different vaisnava sampradayas often chant Visnu Sahasra Nama, do Sudarshan homas during eclipse etc ,but we Gaudiya vaisnavas simply chant Hare Krsna as Krsna’s holy name has all transcendental potiencies. Nama Cintamani Krsnas ……

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