Today is the auspicious appearance day of Srimati Sita Devi. Of course the story of Lord Ram and Sita is well know and has been reenacted many times on various temple stages. So today's post focus on the actual appearance day of Srimati Sita Devi and some childhood pastimes which would reveal the glories of Sita Maharani.  
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Janaka maharaj was ploughing a piece of land and then to prepare it for conducting a yajna. He unearthed a golden casket in which he found a beautiful girl and was overjoyed. A land ploughed by the yoke is called 'Sita', and so he named the baby as Sita.

Sita grew up and played in the palace of Janakaraj. She became well known for her beauty as well as her devotion. She could often be seen absorbed in the Deity of the Lord of the Surya-vamsa. She would sometimes lovingly enact the pastimes of the various forms of the Lord and relish His pastimes. In this way she revealed to those close to her that she was no ordinary young girl.

One day the  revered sage Parashurama came to visit king Janaka. He carried a bow with him. He left it at the doorstep of the royal hall and went inside. Sita saw the bow, ran to it and began playing with it as if it was a play-horse. Only those with great physical strength and daring could lift and handle the 'Vaishnava' bow. When Parashurama came out, the bow was missing. Ordinary persons could not lift it with ease and he, curiously looking around, spotted Sita playing with it as if it was a play-horse. The sage and the king were astonished.


In Sri Janakatayane it states,   
Oh daughter of Janaka, the blessed souls of refugees!  
Oh Consort of Sri Raghu Rama, bedecked with shining gem-ornaments!
Pray, protect me always!
You are the wind that destroys the clouds of demons like the hundreds-headed Ravana.
You are the indweller in the hearts of the devotees.
Your Feet shine with the lustre of gems set in the crown of Indra.

Jaya Srimati Sita Devi!
 
 
Krishna, the Supreme Enjoyer, is smeared with cooling sandalwood as Chandan Yatra starts today and continues for the next 21 days. (despite us getting snow in Toronto today, Krishna is hot in Vrindavan...).

Enjoy TODAY'S darshan from the holy dhams of Vrindavan and Mayapur.
 
 
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This news report was carried in the Toronto Star and numerous other papers. Perhaps it is best that we stick to freshly prepared items where we know what goes in and are offered to Their Lordships Radha & Krishna. Prasadam...truly, karma free food or you can take your chances...

Frappuccino's colourful ingredients made from bodies of ground insects. 

Melissa Allison
The Seattle Times 
SEATTLE—When Starbucks changed its Frappuccino mix a couple years ago, it made sure the new ingredients were dairy-free. But no one said anything about being bug-free.

Turns out the strawberry sauce used in strawberries-and-cream Frappuccinos contains cochineal extract, which is made from the bodies of ground-up insects indigenous to Latin America.

A vegan barista who works for Starbucks sent a picture of the sauce’s ingredient list to a vegetarian blog called www.ThisDishIsVegetarian.com, which posted it earlier this month. The revelation sparked some criticism from advocacy groups questioning the practice.

“The strawberry base for our Strawberries & Creme Frappuccino does contain cochineal extract, a common natural dye that is used in the food industry, and it helps us move away from artificial ingredients,” said spokesman Jim Olson.

The base also is used in Starbucks’ strawberry smoothies, he said, and the insect-derived extract is in some other foods and drinks the chain sells, including its red velvet whoopie pies.

Starbucks is hardly the only one.

Cochineal extract and a similar ingredient called carmine, also made from the insects, are bright red and can be found in fruit juices, gelatins and other foods, as well as many makeup products.

They were used for red dye in Mexico before the Spaniards arrived, and the Italian liqueur Campari originally contained carmine dye.

Tropicana’s website lists carmine as a colorant in its non-refrigerated ruby red grapefruit juice, and Dole lists cochineal extract as an ingredient in some of its fruit-in-gel products.

Three years ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said food and cosmetic products must declare on their labels that they contain cochineal extract or carmine. The rule went into effect in early 2011.

Until then, the insect additives often were listed as “artificial colours” or “colour added.”

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, an activist group that pushed the FDA for the new labeling requirement, said the agency should have banned the colorants altogether or at least required that the labels explain that they come from insects.

“All food companies would be well advised to colour their foods with real food and not either artificial dyes or an ostensibly natural dye like carmine,” said the center’s spokesman, Jeff Cronin.

In the case of Starbucks’ strawberry Frappuccinos, he said, “I bet real strawberries could be used. Why simulate the colour of strawberries when you could probably get a pretty good result with strawberries or beet juice or something that won’t concern your customers?”

Cochineal extract and carmine cause allergic reactions in a small segment of the population, he said, and are off-limits for most Jews who keep kosher and vegans and vegetarians, who do not eat animals.

Joe M. Regenstein, a professor of food science at Cornell University, remembers Ben & Jerry’s taking the cochineal-derived colour out of its Cherry Garcia ice cream to make it kosher and to make its ingredient label easier to understand.

Now Cherry Garcia’s label lists “fruit and vegetable concentrates” for color.

Other red foods that are more specific include Whole Foods’ 365-brand pink lemonade, which includes sweet potato, red radish, cherry and apple extracts and Fuze strawberry guava’s chokeberry and carrot extracts.


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A not so yummy ingredient in Starbuck's and other foods
 
 
Today is the appearance day of Sri Gadadhara Pandita and Srila Svarupa Damodara Goswami has glorified him so well in the Sri Gadadharastakam...
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I worship the greatly learned and exalted spiritual master, Srila Gadadhara Prabhu, who appears very splendid, engaged in the Lord’s devotional service. He always performs pastimes in Vraja, where he is very prominent among the gopis, who are very dear to Lord Hari. Lord Caitanya, the Son of Saci is the dear Lord of Gadadhara Prabhu, who is preaching the service of Radha and Krsna.

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I worship the greatly learned spiritual master, Srila Gadadhara Prabhu. He is expertly absorbed in meditation on the nine rasas of devotional service, beginning with ujjvala-rasa, and he dances in the waves of the amazing ocean of devotional service to Lord Caitanya. He preaches the path of raganuga-bhakti, and He is a fit person to attain residence in the transcendental land of Vraja.

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I worship the greatly learned spiritual master, Srila Gadadhara Prabhu. The best of those who are devoted to the lotus feet of Lord Caitanya, the Son of Saci-devi, offer respecful obeisances to him and treat him with great importance, and he is very dear to Lord Krsna, Who is seated in the middle of the lotus flower which is his heart, assuming His golden form of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He preaches that Lord Mukunda has assumed the golden form of Lord Caitanya, and he returns the living entities to their constitutional position as servants of the Lord.

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I worship the greatly learned and exalted spiritual master, Srila Gadadhara Prabhu. It is only because of him that the truth of the exalted devotional service performed by the intimate associates of Krsna in the forests and groves of Vrndavana has been revealed. He is preaching the ecstatic love attained by the gopis, and he is indeed a personification of the mellows of devotional service. The saintly devotees take shelter of his lotus feet, and he teaches the truth of spiritual life to the living entities.

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I worship the greatly learned spiritual master, Srila Gadadhara Prabhu. He is very dear to Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and it is as if he had sprouted from the manifestation of the Lord`s ecstatic love. He is always adorned with the garments of ecstatic love of Godhead, and He delights Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu by arousing in the Lord the ecstatic emotional love experienced by the gopis of Vraja.

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I worship the greatly learned spiritual master, Srila Gadadhara Prabhu, who expands the mellows of devotional service and whose lotus feet are worshipped by the kings of the brahmanas. Among his confidential associates, he reveals his actual form as Srimati Radharani. He distributes the nectar of the ecstatic mellow of the gopis conjugal love, strictly following the instructions of all the devotional scriptures.

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I worship the greatly learned spiritual master, Srila Gadadhara Prabhu. With delight he is giving the devotional service of Lord Caitanya which reveals the nectarean ocean of the most exalted mellows of devotional service, along with the nectar flowing from the lotus feet of the gopis, headed by Srimati Radharani, who is most dear to Krsna. Gadadhara Prabhu is decorated with the eight transcendental ecstatic symptoms of sattvika-bhava, and he is distributing devotional service to his worshippable Lord Krsna.

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I worship the greatly learned spiritual master, Srila Gadadhara Prabhu. Even a conditioned soul, whose mind becomes anointed by the colorful waves of spontaneous devotional service as delineated by Srila Gadadhara Prabhu, quickly attains the highest level of devotional service. He becomes like a maddened bumble bee whose mind is anointed with the mellow of ujjvala-rasa.

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“These eight verses glorifying Srila Gadadhara Prabhu distribute the nectar of the most exalted mellow of devotional service, and they are like a festival for the gopis of Vraja. If one regularly reads these verses and serves the lotus feet of Srila Gadadhara Prabhu, who is an incarnation of Srimati Radharani, then he will become qualified to attain the jewel of pure devotional service for the lotus feet of Lord Caitanya, the son of Sacidevi.”

 
 
Parividha Prabhu pointed these pictures out which he found on the net when he googled “Hari Krishna Toronto” They are published by Charles Dobie. Don’t recall ever seeing them. They are dated 1970 on Yonge Street. 
 
 
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Tulasi Jala Dan and Kesava Vrata has begun (as of April 13th) and will end on May 13th, 2012. During Keshave Vrata  our austerities can increase in order to increase our focus and service to Lord Krishna and Krishna's devotees. Of course  one of the greatest devotees is Srimati Tulsi Devi  and to increase worship of Tulsi devi  during this month of Keshava Vrata some devotees place a dripping pot of water  over Tulsi Devi. 

For many actually placing this pot over Tulsi Devi or performing all the austerities of Keshava Vrata may be difficult, however the focus can be on the importance of remembering Tulsi Devi during this important month.  In turn hopefully this positively affects our worship of Krishna and His devotees. 

To honor Tulasi Jala Dan and to increase our meditation of Srimati Tulsi Devi, we would like to share 2 verses. 

From the Skanda Purana: Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto the Tulasi tree, which can immediately vanquish volumes of sinful activities. Simply by seeing or touching this tree one can become relieved from all distresses and diseases. Simply by offering obeisances to and pouring water on the tulasi tree, one can become freed from the fear of being sent to the court of Yamaraja [the King of death, who punishes the sinful]. If someone sows a tulasi tree somewhere, certainly he becomes devoted to Lord Krsna. And when the tulasi leaves are offered in devotion at the lotus feet of Krsna, there is the full development of love of Godhead. 

From the Srimad Bhagavatam 3.15.19: Although flowering plants like the mandara, kunda, kurabaka, utpala, campaka, arna, punnaga, nagakesara, bakula, lily and parijata are full of transcendental fragrance, they are still conscious of the austerities performed by tulasi, for tulasi is given special preference by the Lord, who garlands Himself with tulasi leaves. 


Jaya Tulasi Devi! 


 
 
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Please worship Lord Janardana
Today is Varuthini Ekadasi in our location (variant dates may apply in other parts of the world). Hopefully everyone remembered today's Ekadasi. Here goes the story behind Varuthini Ekadasi. 

 Sri Yudhisthira Maharaj said, “Oh Vasudeva, I offer my most humble obeisances unto You. Please now describe to me the Ekadasi of the dark fortnight  of the month of Vaisakha, including its specific merits and influence.”

Lord Sri Krishna replied, “Oh King, in this world and the next, the most auspicious and magnanimous Ekadasi is Varuthini Ekadasi, which occurs during the dark fortnight of the month of Vaisakha.

Whosoever observes a complete fast on this sacred day has his sins completely removed, obtains continuous happiness, and achieves all good fortune.

Fasting on Varuthini Ekadasi makes even an unfortunate woman fortunate. Upon anyone who observes it, this Ekadasi bestows material enjoyment in this life and liberation after the death of this present body. It destroys the sins of all and saves people from the miseries of repeated rebirth.

“By observing this Ekadasi properly, King Mandhata was liberated. Many other kings also benefited from observing it – kings such as Maharaja Dhundhumara, in the Ikshvaku dynasty, who became free from leprosy resulting from the curse that Lord Shiva had imposed upon him as a punishment.

Whatever merit one obtains by performing austerities and penances for ten thousand years is achieved by a person who observes Varuthini Ekadasi.

The merit one achieves by donating a great amount of gold during a solar eclipse at Kurukshetra is gained by one who observes this one Ekadasi with love and devotion, and certainly attains his goals in this life and the next. In short, this Ekadasi is pure and very enlivening and the destroyer of all sins.

“Better than giving horses in charity is giving elephants, and better than giving elephants is giving land. But better still than giving land is the giving of sesame seeds, and better than that is giving of gold. Still better than giving gold is giving food grains - for all the forefathers, demigods, and human beings become satisfied by eating grains. Thus there is no better gift of charity than this in the past, present or future.”

“Yet learned scholars have declared that giving away a young maiden in marriage to a worthy person is equal to giving away food grains in charity. Moreover, Lord Sri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, has said that giving cows in charity is equal to giving food grains. Still better than all these charities is teaching spiritual knowledge to the ignorant. Yet all the merits one can attain by performing all these acts of charity are attained by one who fasts on the Varuthini Ekadasi.”

“One who lives off the wealth of his daughters suffers a hellish condition until the inundation of the entire universe, Oh Bharata. Therefore one should be especially careful not to use the wealth of his daughter. Oh best of kings, any householder who takes his daughter’s wealth out of greed, who tries to sell his daughter, or who takes money from the man to whom he has given his daughter in marriage – such a householder becomes a lowly cat in his next life. Therefore it is said that whoever, as a sacred act of charity, gives away in marriage a maiden decorated with various ornaments, and who also gives a dowry with her, obtains merit that cannot be described even by Chitragupta, the chief secretary of Yamaraja in the heavenly planets. That very same merit, however, can be easily achieved by one who fasts on the Varuthini Ekadasi.

“The following things should be given up on the Dashami, (the tenth phase of the Moon), the day before the Ekadasi: eating on bell-metal plates, eating any kind of urid-dahl, eating red-lentils, eating chick-peas, eating kondo, eating spinach, eating honey, eating in another person’s house/home, eating more than once, and participating in sex of any kind.

“On the Ekadasi itself one should give up the following: gambling, sports, sleeping during the daytime, betal nuts and its leaf, brushing one’s teeth, spreading rumours, faultfinding, talking to the spiritually fallen, anger, and lying.

“On the Dwadasi the day after Ekadasi (the twelfth phase of the Moon), one should give up the following: eating on bell-metal plates, eating urid-dahl, red-lentils, or honey, lying, strenuous exercise or labour, eating more than once, any sexual activity, shaving the body, face or head, smearing oils on one’s body, and eating in another’s home.”

Lord Sri Krishna continued, “Whoever observes the Varuthini Ekadasi in this way becomes free from all sinful reactions and returns to the eternal, spiritual abode. One who worships Lord Janardana (Krishna) on this Ekadasi by staying awake throughout the entire night, also becomes free from all his previous sins and attains to the spiritual abode. Therefore, Oh king, he who is frightened of his accumulated sins and their attendant reactions, and thus of death itself, must observe Varuthini Ekadasi by fasting very strictly.

“Finally, Oh noble Yudhisthira, he who hears or reads this glorification of the sacred Varuthini Ekadasi obtains the merit earned by donating one thousand cows in charity, and at last he returns home, to the Supreme abode of Lord Vishnu in the Vaikunthas.”
 
 
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Srila Vrindavana Das Thakur
Jaya Srila Vrindavana Das Thakur! Today marks the disappearance day of Srila Vrindavana Das Thakur. On this day the only uncertainty should be if we should chant the name of Gauranga more or Nityananda more but what is certain is the glorification of Srila Vrindavana Das Thakur is a must, not only as a pure devotee of Gaur-Nitai but also the embodiment of Gaura Prema.

In the Caitanya Caritamrta Adi-lila 11.55 is states:
bhagavate krishna-lila varnila vedavyasa
caitanya-lilate vyasa -- vrindavana dasa

Srila Vyasadeva described the pastimes of Krishna in Srimad-Bhagavatam. The Vyasa of the pastimes of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu was Vrindavana dasa.

The purport states:
Srila Vrindavana dasa Thakura was an incarnation of Vedavyasa and also a friendly cowherd boy named Kusumapida in krishna-lila. In other words, the author of Sri Caitanya-bhagavata, Srila Vrindavana dasa Thakura, the son of Srivasa Thakura's niece Narayani, was a combined incarnation of Vedavyasa and the cowherd boy Kusumapida. There is a descriptive statement by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura in his commentary on Sri Caitanya-bhagavata giving the biographical details of the life of Vrindavana dasa Thakura.

Srila Vrindavana das Thakur was the most dear devotee and disciple of Lord Nityananda and was one of the last if not last disciples of Lord Nityananda. 

Srila Vrindavana das Thakur's glories can go on and on but one of my favorite glories is his staunch stance on Vaishnava apradha!  Something we unfortunately still see all too often. He states:
eta parihare-o je papi ninda kare
tabe lathi maron tar shirera upare
Even after being told how objectionable it is, if someone still blasphemes the Vaishnavas  then I will kick him in the head.


Can it be said any stronger?

On this day I am unqualified to adequately glorify Srila Vrindavan das Thakur so I will turn to the words of Srila Krishna Dasa Kaviraja Goswami.

O fools, just read Sri Caitanya-mangala! By reading this book you can understand all the glories of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu.

 As Vyasadeva has compiled all the pastimes of Lord Krishna in Srimad-Bhagavatam, Thakura Vrindavana dasa has depicted the pastimes of Lord Caitanya.

 Thakura Vrindavana dasa has composed Sri Caitanya-mangala. Hearing this book annihilates all misfortune.

By reading Sri Caitanya-mangala one can understand all the glories and truths of Lord Caitanya and Nityananda and come to the ultimate conclusion of devotional service to Lord Krishna.

In Sri Caitanya-mangala [later known as Sri Caitanya-bhagavata] Srila Vrindavana dasa Thakura has given the conclusion and essence of devotional service by quoting the authoritative statements of Srimad-Bhagavatam.

If even a great atheist hears Sri Caitanya-mangala, he immediately becomes a great devotee.

The subject matter of this book is so sublime that it appears that Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has personally spoken through the writings of Sri Vrindavana dasa Thakura.

I offer millions of obeisances unto the lotus feet of Vrindavana dasa Thakura. No one else could write such a wonderful book for the deliverance of all fallen souls.

~ Caitanya Caritamrta Adi-lila 8.33 to 40

And with that I offer my humble obeisances to Srila Vrindavana dasa Thakura and thank my guru Srila Prabhupada for delivering this treasure. Thank you for the oppurtunity to glorify Srila Vrindavana dasa Thakura!

Gauranga! Gauranga!
Nityananda! Nityananda!
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Personal Deities of Srila Vrindavana Das Thakur