by Kurma Dasa
sunrise”The time early in the morning, one and a half hours before sunrise, is called brahma-muhurta. During this brahma-muhurta, spiritual activities are recommended. Spiritual activities performed early in the morning have a greater effect than in any other part of the day.”
[Bhagavata Purana, 3.20.46, purport by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami]
It was Benjamin Franklin who wrote in Poor Richard’s Almanack: “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”
There is a great deal of profound truth in this proverb.
From my very early days as a young Hare Krishna devotee way back in 1971
(see Early Days), I knew that my guru, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, affectionately known as Srila Prabhupada, was always vigilant about his disciples following this advice and thus being awake early in the morning.
He often asked why some devotees who lived in the temple ashram were regularly absent from early temple functions. This time of the day was very important for those aspiring to a yoga lifestyle, he said. Prabhupada especially wanted his disciples to attend the first kirtana (congregational chanting) of the day, known as mangala arati.
“The exact time for the mangala-arati would vary according to the clock”, Prabhupada said, “but it must always be one-and-a-half hours before sunrise.”
Despite the fact that I usually felt like staying in bed, I almost always rose early to attend the temple’s devotional functions, and I noticed from very early on that I used to feel very good all day as a result of being awake that time of the morning. It was as if I was floating on air for the rest of the day, coated with some wonderful, energising, ethereal balm.
Rising early would give an almost mystical boost to all my days’ activities. I would fit so much more in a day if I had been awake before the ‘crack of dawn’, even if I had taken a nap later in the day to refresh myself. And I often noticed how my cooking was better on the days that I had been awake during those ‘wee hours’.
What is so special about this time? And how relevant is it to us? Of course, there are many ancient sanskrit references quoted by the sages who had been getting up early long before Benjamin Franklin. Take this one for instance:
The last line of Sri Gurvastakam appears in the Stavamrta-lahari of medieval Vaisnava poet Sri Visvanath Chakravarti Thakura as follows:
srimad-guror astakam etad uccair
brahme muhurte pathati prayatnat
yastena vrndavana natha saksat
sevaiva labhya januso ‘nta eva
“That person who very attentively recites this astakam to Sri Gurudeva during brahma muhurta is sure to achieve direct service to the lotus feet of Lord Sri Krishna, the very life and soul of Vrindavana, at the end of his life.”
Srila Prabhupada writes in the famous biographical work Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya Lila section, chapter 24, verse 331, purport:
“In the early morning hours (known as brahma-muhurta) one should get up and immediately chant the Hare Krsna mantra, or at least `Krsna, Krsna, Krsna’. In this way, one should remember Krsna.”
It was not only Krishna’s devotees that would rise early. In his book “Krishna” in the chapter entitled “Lord Krsna’s Daily Activities”, Prabhupada writes:
“Lord Krsna would immediately get up from bed exactly on the appearance of brahma-muhurta.. After rising from bed, Lord Krsna would wash His mouth, hands, and feet and would immediately sit down and meditate…”
Garga-samhita 4.8.19 states:
eka-varam-jalam-pitva dhauta-vastro ‘ti-nirmalah
brahme muhurta utthaya caikadasyam-harim-natah
“During the ekadasi fasting day one should be pure-hearted and very clean, wear clean garments, drink water only once, rise during brahma-muhurta, and bow down to Lord Krsna”
Garga-samhita 5.15.2 states:
brahme muhurte cotthaya gopyah sarva grhe grhe
dehaly-anganam alipya dipams tatra nirupya ca
“In each home the gopis (cowherd ladies) rose at brahma-muhurta, anointed the doorways and courtyards, arranged the lamps, . . .”
Garga-samhita 8.10.7 also says:
brahme muhurte cotthaya rama-krsneti ca bruvan
natva gurum bhuvam caiva tato bhumyam padam nyaset
“One should rise at brahma-muhurta, chant the holy names of Lord Krsna and Lord Balarama, and bow down before one’s guru. Only then should one place his feet on the ground.”
When exactly is this brahma-muhurta, you may ask? Well, it falls everyday! According to Vedic astrology, the day is divided into 30 periods called muhurtas. The brahma-muhurta begins 1 hr 36 minutes before sunrise and lasts for 48 minutes.
Ideally, the time for the special mangal arati ceremony, when incence, burning ghee lamps, scented water, fragrant flowers, pea*censored* feather fan and other auspicious items are offered to God in the temple, accompanied by sweet melodic music and mantras, should be during this brahma-muhurta. Often this is as early as 4.30 or 5.00am.
The timing will vary according to the sunrise time because the brahma-muhurta time always depends on the time of sunrise. The time of sunrise determines the times of all the muhurtas in the day.
It is recommended by all the old sages and teachers in the yoga tradition, especially in the Bhakti or devotional schools, that even if one is not living in an ashram, if one is serious about a yoga-based lifestyle, one should be awake and performing some spiritual activity during the brahma-muhurta.
In the famous ‘Pink City’ of Jaipur, in Northern central India, even to this day you can see huge masses of townsfolk scurrying through the city as early as 4.30am in the morning, all freshly bathed and in clean clothes, swarming to the outdoor compound of the famous Radha Govinda temple to see their beloved Lord Govinda (Krishna) and attend the festivities.
Wherever you might reside in the world, it is easy to calculate the whole year’s brahma muhurtas. Sunrise charts are easily available these days from the internet, and simple mathematical calculations can be made.
For instance, as I write this article in Perth, my sunrise chart tells me that the sunrise today is at 6.40 am. To calculate today’s brahma-muhurta, I first go back (subtract) 1 hour and 36 minutes from that time. That time is 5.04 am. The duration of brahma-muhurta is 48 minutes, so today’s brahma-muhurta commenced at 5.04 and finishes at 5.52 am. It is now 5.30am, so I am writing this article during brahma muhurta!
Srila Prabhupada stated that the brahma-muhurta was the best muhurta for
spiritual practices and thus it is the best muhurta of the day according to
the astrological charts. I personally always try to be awake and doing something spiritual like chanting (or writing this article!) during the brahma-muhurta. My favourite thing to do during this auspicious time is to chant the Hare Krishna Mantra:
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna,
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare,
Hare Rama Hare Rama,
Rama Rama Hare Hare.
Ultimately, whether one is living in an ashram or at home, one should be aware of the great spiritual benefits of being awake during this most auspicious time of the day – the brahma-muhurta.
More stuff like this from Kurma Prabhu here.