BHISMA PANCAKA INTRODUCTION
"The last five days of Kartika month are known as Bhisma-Panacaka. Grandfather Bhisma fasted for these five days, preparing to give up his life. However one observes Kartika-vrata, he should intensify it for the last five days. The best way to observe the Kartika-vrata is to abstain from eating grains for the whole month, and to take only milk or water for the last five days. If one eats grains during the month, he should avoid them for the last five days. Also, one should only eat once a day. This is the proper procedure [for strict adherence]."
"This five day fast is difficult for those people who are not serious and who are hypocrites. If someone observes this fast, he is considered to have observed all other fasts, because it is greatly meritorious and frees one from great sins. Therefore, everyone should make a great endeavor to fast on these last five days of Bhismadeva.
"The fast should begin by remembering Bhismadeva on the Ekadasi day and should end on Purnima [the full moon]. One should eat only vegetables or fruits and should worship Lord Krsna. If he needs to eat, he should do so only in the evening. A woman can also observe this fast by the suggestion of a twice-born, and if a widow observes this fast, she can also attain liberation and happiness."
"All of one's material and spiritual desires can be fulfilled and all of the senses can be controlled by following this five-day fast. One should follow this Kartika fast in a most auspicious place of pilgrimage. If one follows this Kartika fast, one can obtain the results attainable from fasting on the auspicious fasting days for a whole year".
"Srila Suta Goswami says in the Padma Purana, Uttarakhanda, 'This liberating fast is unknown even to the demigods. If one listens to what I have said and fasts on these five days, even if he had sex with an unqualified woman (his sister, daughter, mother, etc.), he becomes free from that sin" Even if someone attentively listens to this narration, he also achieves all happiness. I tell you the truth again and again that one should keep this fast secretively, and continue performing it unceasingly - such a person surely achieves liberation."
Here is the right procedure how to follow this most powerful vrata of the year.
As mentioned in Srila Rupa Gosvami’s Sri Mathura Mahatmya:
durlabho bhakti-yogo me
karttike mathurayam ca
“Pure devotional service to Me which, because it places Me under My devotee's dominion, is very difficult to attain, is easily attained by following this vow in
Mathura (mandala) during Karttika.”
“Following the vow of Bhisma-pancaka in Mathura is said to fulfill all desires.” [This includes the desire to attain one’s eternal raga-maya spontaneous intimate loving relationship with Radhe-Syama in the madhurya realm of Vraja, if one does the vrata with the appropriate lobha.]
Daily bathe before sunrise and at noon. Lord Krsna gave what was previously known as the Visnu-pancaka vrata to Bhisma, declaring the vrata thenceforward to be re-named as Bhisma-pancaka. Hence, after bathing, while offering water along with obeisances, Bhisma is to be honored with a prayer for successful completion of one's vow: “I am offering this water to Bhisma, who has Vaiyaghrapada ghotra and Sanskrit pravara. I offer respectful obeisances to Bhisma, the incarnation of Vasus, who is the son of Santanu and a life-long celibate.”
One should worship Lord Krsna along with His most beloved Radha, bathing Them daily with pancamrta, offering new clothes, excellent cooked food and cloves, and also arotrika with incense, lamp, Tulasi water in a conch shell, napkin, flowers, and camara to the best of one's ability. One should every morning and evening offer a ghee lamp to the Deities as well as to Tulasi.
One may maintain an akhanda-dipa near the Deities or near Tulasi. Light incense and lamps using a dry Tulasi stick and get ten million times the result. Tulasi Mahatmya says that there is no one more dear to Krsna than one who lights a ghee lamp with a dry Tulasi stick for His pleasure. The whole point is to become dear to Radha-Krsna! One should especially endeavor to enhance one's Krsna consciousness by increasing one's absorption in nama-japa, nama-sankirtana, and krsna-katha.
One must maintain strict celibacy both physically and mentally. Padma Purana states that anyone who does not give up copulation during the month of Kartika becomes a pig in every successive lifetime. One should also sleep on the floor, eat off of leaf plates, and at all costs, totally avoid sadhu-ninda and every kind of prajalpa.
DAY 1 EKADASI (November, 17):
You may drink any amount of water to make easier your nirjala fasting which will begin after sunrise and continue throughout the day and night until after sunrise on Dvadasi morning. Parana time is between 6:42 A.M. and 10:16 A.M. Fasting from sleep throughout the night is also prescribed for this particular ekadasi.
DAY 2 DVADASI (November, 18 Evening sandhya 5.02 PM - 5.50 PM):
Break your nirjala fasting first with maha-prasada Tulasi leaf, then water. After the parana time, anytime during the day, drink 50ml. urine from a young virgin cow. Padma Purana says that, for the remaining days, there is no bar against taking one time simple ekadasi-prasada at night after the evening sandhya is finished.
[You may take boiled potato, sweet potato, arbi, green banana, green papaya, and yellow pumpkin only among vegetables; apples, oranges, bananas, papaya, grapes, soft pear (not naspati), melons, and pomegranate only among fruits. Dry fruits and nuts are also permitted but not coconut. Tapioca, so-called ekadasi rice, and any kind of ground so-called ekadasi flour and spices must be avoided as they invariably have some amount of grains mixed.
Only fresh ginger, whole black pepper, and any kind of rock salt may be used. All kinds of oil are to be avoided. If you must cook, use pure cow ghee only. Rock candy and gur may be taken. Do not eat anything such as sweets or drinks prepared commercially. You may drink water as much as required day and night throughout the remaining days of the vrata.]
DAY 3 TRAYODASI (November, 19 Evening sandhya 5.01 PM - 5.49 PM):
Anytime after sunrise take pure cow ghee. Once prescribed prasada at night.
DAY 4 CATURDASI (November, 20 Evening sandhya 5.01 PM - 5.49 PM):
Anytime after sunrise take pure cow yogurt. Once prescribed prasada at night.
DAY 5 PURNIMA (November, 21 Evening sandhya 5.01 PM - 5.49 PM):
After sunrise take pure cow milk.
CONCLUDING THE VOW:
Starting during the abhijit period (12:04 P.M. - 12:28 P.M.), feed brahmanas with maha-prasada consisting of foods that you avoided during the vrata along with sweet rice made with pure cow milk.
Also during that time one should give charity to brahmanas (gifts, money, sesume seeds, pots of water, as well as best quality grains, ghee, ghee lamps, and mirrors, etc. to properly conclude one's Kartika and/or Caturmasya vratas.)
After that is done, eat pancagavya mixed (cow dung, cow urine, cow ghee, cow yogurt, and cow milk).
Then happily Break your Bhisma-pancaka vrata with sweet rice.
Break all Caturmasya and Kartika vratas with foods that were then avoided. Afterwards shave and cut nails. Try to complete everything before sunset. Do not eat, shave, or cut nails during the evening sandhya. If unable to complete everything before the sandhya starts, you may shave etc. after the sandhya is complete (at night). Don't forget to offer lamps on the evening of Kartika purnima. It is most highly praised in the Padma Purana.