Vamana Dvadasi, and Bhaktivinode's appearance day
Yesterday was appearance day of the dwarf incarnation of God, recounted in the 8th Canto of Shrimad Bhagavatam. In Prabhupada Village in North Carolina where I live, we also celebrated a grain ceremony, and one for indicating the tenancies of a child for Devavrata, the son of Mathura das and Citralekha.
Theses "Lilas" or pastimes of the Lord are very instructive for us, and I thought how I might connect the special appearance day of the Lord, with the auspicious "samskara" (Vedic purifying and sanctifying rites) of "anna-prashana" or first grain ceremony.
There are many ways of looking at the appearance of Vamanadeva, but what came to me was the fact that the Lord came to deliver his devotee Bali Maharaja from the illusion of bodily consciousness, in his case thinking of himself as king or ruler, and in possession of so much land.
King Bali was put into a position where he had to surrender everything he possessed, even his own body and sense of identity, yet he was not the loser, but has become celebrated as one of the twelve authorities or mahajanas on devotional service, or bhakti yoga.
I related this story to the samskaras which are a way in which the Lord enables us to connect major events in our lives with his service. As Krishna says in the Gita, "Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer or give away, and whatever austerities you perform---do that, O son of Kunti, as an offering to Me." [Bg 9-27]
As aspiring devotees of Krishna we want to somehow connect everything we do, see, say, etc, with Krishna and his loving service. Krishna is the active principle in everything (see 7th and 10th chapters of Gita) In order to do this Krishna is coming to us in so many ways to help deliver us from our ignorance and help us to remember him. These ceremonies are also "spiritualized" social occasions when we can come together as a community with our family and glorify the Lord, his service, his devotees, and the natural course of our lives.
Today is the appearance of the great Thakur Bhaktivinode, who Prabhupada called the pioneer of Krishna consciousness in the West. In many ways the movement of Prabhupada is the movement of Bhaktivinode as it was on his ideas, and that of his son Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, based on the teachings of Lord Chaitanya and his disciples the 6 Goswamis, upon which Krishna consciousness in the modern age is founded.
The life and times of Srila Bhakivinode Thakur are fascinating, and we hope that someday his contributions to the world will be recognized. He wrote hundreds of books and composed hundreds of songs glorifying Lord Chaitanya, his associates, and mission, as well as the entire philosophy of Krishna consciousness, while at the same time being a high court judge and father of 11 children.
Besides reading all the works of Prabhupada, we need to know the writings and songs of Bhaktivinode in order to go deeper into Krishna consciousness. My favorite songs by Bhaktivinode are the 8 prayers of surrender or "atma-nivedana". Here are a few I think are especially helpful for those of us---most of us---who are married "householders".
song 3 in his series:
1) Mind, body, family, and whatever else may be mine, I have surrendered at Your lotus feet, O youthful son of Nanda (Krishna).
2) In good fortune or bad, in life or death, all my difficulties have disappeared by accepting those lotus feet of yours as my only shelter.
3) Slay me or protect me as you wish, for you have full authority over your eternal servant.
4) If it is your wish that I be born again, then may I take birth in the home of a devotee.
5) May I be born even as a worm, as long as I remain your devotee. I have no desire to born as a Brahma (demigod engineer of the universe) averse to you.
6) I yearn for the company of that devotee who is completely devoid of all desire for worldly enjoyment or liberation.
7) Father, mother, lover, son, Lord, preceptor, and husband----you are everything to me.
8) Bhaktivinode says, "O Kana (Krishna), please hear me! O Lord of Radha, you are my life and soul!"
1) All there is that may be indicated by the words "aham" ("I") and "mama" ("mine"), I offer at your lotus feet, O merciful Lord!
2) I no longer consider even myself to be "mine", O Lord! Now I have become exclusively yours.
3) The soul inhabiting this mortal body has given up the false ego attached to the word "I", for today the spiritual sense of being yours has entered his heart.
4) All my possessions---body, home, servants, brothers, friends, wife, sons, personal belongings, and gateways......
5)...all of these things are now yours, for I have become your servant. I am but mere occupant in your house.
6) You are the owner of the house, and I am your most obedient servant. My only activity now is endeavoring for your happiness.
7) Whatever pious or impious activities that were performed by me, either with my gross or subtle bodies, are no longer mine, O Lord, for I am redeemed!
8) My will has become merged with your will. From this day forward Bhaktivinode has completely forgotten himself.
1) O Lord, nothing further remains that may be called "mine". Father, friend, brother---you alone are all these to me.
2) My friends, wife, sons, and daughters are now your servants and maidservants. Whatever care I take for them is only as they are related to you.
3) Declaring that my wealth, family members, home, and wife are truly yours, I continue as a mere servant to dutifully protect them.
4) For the purpose of your service I will earn money and bear the expense of maintaining your household.
5) I know nothing of what is good or bad; I simply render my service. I am but a watchman set to guard your household.
6) I exercise my senses only according to your direction, and thus I desire to hear, see, smell, and taste.
7) O no longer do anything for my own pleasure. Bhaktivinode says, "Your pleasure is the essence of everything."
There is so much more to be said about this empowered superlative devotee Shrila Bhaktivinode Thakur, but I will leave it for you to find information about him, as well as his songs and books.