The following is a reprint of a summary of a discourse on the significance of Purushottama-month, by His Holiness Srila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Goswami Maharaj, President-Acharya of Sree Chaitanya Gaudiya Math. It has been slightly edited with respect to timeliness.—ed.
vande navaghana-syam dvibhujam murlidharam
pitambardharam devam saradham purusottamam
I offer my obeisances to Navaganasyam (Krishna, who has the color of a fresh rain cloud), who is holding the flute with His two hands. I worship Purusottama who is so beautiful in His yellow dress (pitambhara).
I pray for the causeless mercy of my Gurudeva, His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Dayita Madhava Gosvami, to give me strength, to sing the glories of the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna and His personal associates, to purify my mind and to get exclusive one-pointed devotion to the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna. I pay my innumerable prostrated obeisances to my most revered siksa gurus and I pay my due respects to all who are present here.
By the will of the Supreme Lord we have come back to India during this month of Purusottama, which is actually the holiest month.
According to our almanac every three years, one month is added. This is done to harmonize the lunar month (Chandra-maas) with the solar month (Soar Maas). The inserted month is known as 'Purusottama', and is technically called an intercalary month. According to some smarta Brahmins, this month is unholy. They call it "tarnished".
Prescribing various holy functions for all months of the year, they left out this additional month taking it to be unholy ("tarnished") for no holy activity can be performed therein.
Yet Vaishnava devotees object to this, arguing that not a single moment is to be spent without the worship of the Supreme Lord. If you spent it to the contrary, your life will be spoiled. If we shall not do any holy work in this month, then if we will die in this month we shall go to hell? This is not the purpose. But these karma-kandis, who prescribed these rituals and regulations were inclined to observe them merely for achieving material benefits in this world and being uplifted after death to heaven. Taking this to be the aim and not being able to understand the purpose behind it, they encourage the observance of rules and rituals. So, they neglected this month.
As everything has got consciousness in the background—the example is given of the sun, which is presided over by the sun god, the moon which is presided over by the moon god and Srimati Ganga Devi, who is the presiding deity of the river Ganges—so similarly this month has a presiding deity.
Being depressed due to her seemingly useless existence, the personified deity of this month approached Lord Narayana. This incident is described in the scriptures. She went to Narayana, asking, "What offense did I commit? No one is performing any pious activities during my time. Why?"
Lord Narayana directed her towards Lord Krishna: "You come with Me, I shall take you to Lord Krishna." Upon being approached by her, Lord Krishna responded: "I am Purusottama and I cannot be comprehended by finite beings of this world. They can not comprehend Me by their mental comprehension and sense organs as I am beyond these means."
Those brahmanas also are under the control of the illusory energy. They give some prescriptions for getting mundane benefits without understanding that these various prescriptions simply have been given to facilitate different classes of persons to finally submit to the Supreme Lord. Yet the purpose is not the achievement of material benefits, but it is to recover from the disease of birth and death and to finally develop loving devotion to the Supreme Lord, and thus experience supreme bliss. They do not understand this.
Krishna explained, "This additional month is like Me. I can not be comprehended by the conditioned souls of this world and I am supremely superior to Brahman and Paramatma so I am designated as "Purushottama." You are identical with Me. You are the holiest month. If anybody observes vrata (vow of austerity) during your time, he can get everything. If as by scriptural injunctions he observes it, it is even more auspicious than Kartik-vrata, the holiest month. So you will be known by the name 'Purusottama'." Vaisnavas do observe this Purusottama-vrata.
This year Purushottama month is being observed from [17 May to 15 June].
We shall read the glories of Purushottama-Vrata, from the writings of Sri Bhakti Vinode Thakur, in the morning; daily recite 'Sri Jagannathastakam' and 'Chauragraganya Purusashtakamas' in the afternoon and perform japa instructed by Kaundinya Muni:- Govardhana-Dharam Vande Gopalam Goparupinam, Gokulotsavameeshaanam Govindam Gopikapriyam.
Then in the evening - Deep-dan (to offer a lamp of pure ghee) before Vishnu-Mandir (a temple of Lord Vishnu, Krishna or Rama), Lastly, at night to read 'Brahmastava' 40 slokas, from Srimad Bhagwattam, Chapter 14th, Canto 10th.
But as by the eligibility of those who perform it Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has given three categories, known as: svanistha, parinistitha, and nirapeksa.
Svanistha refers to those persons who have inclinations with Varnasrama-dharma and are still striving for material temporary benefits.
Being covered by the illusory potency -- sattva, raja and tama guna they nevertheless follow some rituals. Prescriptions on how to perform this vrata are given by Valmiki Muni. Yet, hearing them may make you faint. They are very strict, like lying down only on a bed of nails rather than on a normal bed.
Another section, superior in quality yet less in number is called Parinistitha. Parinistitha refers to those who are not striving for any material benefits and are correctly following the prescriptions as given by the respective acaryas of one of the four Vaisnava schools on how to observe this Purusottama-vrata (in a similar way as Kartika-vrata).
The highest form of observance is called Nirapeksa. Nirapeksa refers to those possessing one-pointed devotion to Sri Krishna. They concentrate on worshipping the Supreme Lord by hearing, chanting and remembering the name, form, pastimes and qualities of Sri Krishna day and night for spiritual benefit only. Reasoning correctly that any tendency for material benefit will certainly divert their minds, they observe this vrata by hearing about Krishna, chanting the Maha Mantra and taking prasadam. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura recommends we follow this path.