I’m in India and its the night before the beginning of Kartik month. This afternoon we had a monsoon downpour after a grey and muggy morning. Right now the full moon is hanging in the sky and the crickets have all come out to sing to it.
If I was at home in England we would cook up some sweet rice and place it out in the garden so that Lord Krishna and the gopis could eat it after dancing. It would always be gone by six the next morning, although my children had much more to do with that.
The lunar month of Kartik – also known as Damodara – is a month to further our bhakti. Devotion can grow like a precious plant if you water and feed it, and the activities of devotion, especially in the kartik month, are a further opportunity to do that.
Writing in the sixteenth vilas (chapter) of his Hari-Bhakti Vilas, the Vaishnava handbook of ritual, sacraments, worship and festivals, Srila Sanatana Goswami writes that there are five acts that confer special blessings during this month:
1. Taking a bath – not just your normal shower but bathing while you remember Lord Krishna, if you don’t normally do that.
2. Tulasi seva – serving the Tulasi plant in some way. That could include watering or even sowing a tulasi seed in your home. She makes herself easily available for you to do that and is known in Latin as occimum sanctum, available online from many specialist seed shops.
3. Lighting a lamp – lighting a candle before an image or picture of Krishna in this month is a very special act of devotion. Keeping it burning confers extra grace. Please take all safety precautions.
4. Giving in charity – to a deserving person or cause. The custom is that whatever luxury items you give up for Kartik you give the money saved at the end of the month. But there’s nothing to stop you giving any time during the month.
5. Staying awake all night – not an easy one, but one all-nighter or a vigil until the small hours while you chant, sing or read with friends will be a great contribution to your kartik observance.
But as always, everything you do for Krishna and His beloved Radharani will be accepted by them and fully reciprocated. Hare Krishna.