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Observations of Reality
By Sambhavi dd
On a cloudy Sunday afternoon, the devotees are rolling chapatis for the Sunday feast. The phone rings.
"Hari Om. This is Mr. Patel calling. I want to know when is Ekadasi."
"It is tomorrow, sir."
"But my ISKCON calendar says it is today."
"Yes, but here we have it tomorrow. You see, it depends on the tithi, the lunar day."
"Tonight I am going to travel to Abu Dabi. Should I observe the Ekadasi in the airplane while flying over the Atlantic? When is Ekadasi on the Atlantic Ocean?"
"Also, I need the dates for the Ekadasis for the next month as I will be staying in Abu Dabi for a while."
"You'll have to ask the local temple..."
"But there is no temple. I very much want to observe Ekadasi."
"Mr. Patel, my chapatis are burning."
One night, another frantic caller rings up from Eskimo Point, Northern Canada. She wants to know whether to follow the Los Angles or the New York Ekadasi.
"Actually, I don't know. You should contact the priests in Sweden. They have a computerized calendar and can tell you when to follow Ekadasi in your place."
These are fictional stories, of course. But, believe me, we get enough of such enquiries in our temples from poor, harassed souls who cannot understand why we don’t have qualified panditas to answer about when to observe Ekadasi. I usually end up giving them the same dates that we observe in our temple, which are of course incorrect wherever they live. But I wouldn’t know what to say to the gentleman who will fly across half the earth, trying to follow the correct tithi.
Tithis cannot be seen by the naked eye. We have to take the word of those whom we consider more learned. Presently, the Vaishnava calendar is calculated using fixed muhurtas, even though in many places the length of the day and night is not the same. (There should be an equal number of muhurtas in a day and a night) This makes the calendar inaccurate. I know that the system can be changed, if so decided, so that we’ll be calculating everything using proportionate (not fixed) muhurtas. Thus Mangala-aratik in our temple could take place 7AM in the winter and 2 AM in the summer. Nice.
Why are we doing this to ourselves? Are we really prepared to supply each and every geographical location with its own panjika? Do we have to be so particular and up to the minute? We are a global movement. We have devotees living in cities that are far from the temple they attend. Do we care for them, or label them "sinful" since they cannot follow even Ekadasi properly? Is it a prerequisite of a devotee to be an astronomer as well? Or can we – could we – make the system a bit more user friendly?
The lunar calendar and determining celebrations by tithis is a very ancient and wonderful method. It has a certain magic and power in itself. But are we taking too much on our plates? Shouldn’t we at least go continent by continent?
Let’s think about this issue from the point of view of unity.
© CHAKRA 29 May 2002
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