The Vow of Ekadasi

Tridandisvami Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja
Hawaii: May 13, 2000

GurudevaEkadasi[Dear Readers,
Please accept our humble obesances. All glories to Sri Sri Guru and Gauranga.
This month, January of 2012, the first Ekadasi is January 5th (in India). In honor of this Ekadasi we are sending this newly transcribed lecture of Srila Gurudeva, spoken by him on May 13, 2000 in Honolulu, Hawaii. To hear the sound file, follow this link: 20000513HON.mp3
Your aspiring servants,
The Hari-katha team]

You are all observing Ekadasi today. We should surely observe Ekadasi – strictly avoiding grains, or anything prepared with any kind of grains, such as wheat, barley, corn, and so on. If you observe Ekadasi, chant the holy name, hear hari-katha in high-class association, always remain with elevated devotees, and perform any of the nine limbs of bhakti, you will never fall down.

Sometimes, due to Kali-yuga and maya, we become weak and cannot follow; that is why we fall down. In any situation, we must not forget to chant and remember Krsna, and also to follow Ekadasi. Even if you are weak, try to strictly follow these principles.

Do you know the reason why waves come and go, and why on special days – from Ekadasi to Purnima and Ekadasi to Amavasya – waves are very high? Even if there is no wind, still, from Ekadasi to the full moon and dark moon, the water increases and there are so many high waves. Why is this? It is due to the moon. Water and waves increase due to the moon. The moon comes nearer on those days, and extracts the water.

Similarly there is some water in our stomachs and bodies. Therefore, if we are not very careful in these five days in every fifteen, the moon will increase all your diseases. You can see in hospitals that most people die within these five days.

We have rasa, or water, within us, and wherever there is liquid, the moon attracts it. Thus, all kinds of diseases increase. However, if we are very careful by following the ancient Indian (or Vedic) process of Ekadasi, this can be controlled very easily. How do we do this? By not drinking water and taking grains. If you are weak, and you are taking water or juice but not grains, then you can save yourself. If you are taking any preparation made from grains, it will absorb the water and become saturated with that water. If you put a stone or wood in water, this will not absorb water, whereas if you give any blotting paper or cotton, it will absorb so much that it will remain fully saturated for the entire day. It will not dry, even in the sun. If you drink water but do not take grains, then like a stone, you will not be affected. However if you take grains, the moon will attract the water, those grains will become saturated with the water, and so many kinds of sickness will come. You may even die; so be careful about this.

Here is another analogy to help us understand. The government allows that within each week there is a one- or two-day holiday. Why have they made one or two holidays? Why not work for all seven days of each week? If you work every day of the seven days, you will be tired and you won’t be able to continue the next day. Similarly, the stomach contains so many worms, which digest what we eat. If you do not give them rest, they are not able to continue digesting and they will become diseased. The whole world is suffering due to not giving the stomach any rest.

Moreover, the most important reason to follow Ekadasi is that Ekadasi is Krsna Himself. Krsna has become Ekadasi. He descends to this world on Ekasasi day, looks after all the people who are observing its vows, and gives special mercy to them. So we must observe Ekadasi.

Once, on the day of Ekadasi, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was in Puri with all of His associates like Svarupa Damodara, Raya Ramananda, Nityananda Prabhu, and thousands of other devotees. They were performing kirtana throughout the day and night – remembering Krsna, hearing hari-katha, and not sleeping for even a moment. In the meantime, at about 8:00 in the evening, the pandas (priests) of Jagannatha Puri brought a great quantity of delicious, sweet maha-prasadam and placed it in front of Mahaprabhu and His devotees.

It has been written in the scriptures, like the Puranas and others, that when one receives maha-prasadam he should take it at once, without a moments delay. When Caitanya Mahaprabhu saw the maha-prasadam, He became so happy. He prayed to that maha-prasadam in various ways and performed its parikrama throughout the night. He quoted many slokas from sastra, explaining which he said that even the maha-prasadam taken by hogs, pigs, crows, and dogs is still maha-prasadam; it is so powerful. We should not dishonor it; rather, we should take it. Even if it is rotten or dry, or brought from faraway places, we should still honor it.

When it became morning, Mahaprabhu took bath in the sea along with all His associates, and then told them, “Let us now divide this prasadam and then honor it.”

On the day of Ekadasi, we should honor Ekadasi by not taking grains. Ekadasi is the mother of krsna-bhakti, love and affection. If you do not follow Ekadasi, krsna-bhakti will never come. If you are young and strong, you can fast all day, not taking anything: not fruits, vegetables, juice, or even water. If you are not so strong, or you are sick or old, you can take very few fruits, or juice, or milk. Don’t try to take a large quantity of juice, one or two kilos three or four times a day, or rubady (a sweet), or other preparations. You can take very little, only to maintain your life. Not sleeping at all during the day, and chanting like Srila Haridasa Thakura. Then the fruit of Ekadasi will come.

There are so many examples about Ekadasi in the Srimad-Bhagavatam, such as the story of Ambarisa Maharaja. Maharaja Ambarisa was a very powerful king, who was attacked by an agent of Durvasa Rsi. Durvasa was not an angry person. He is a manifestation of Maha-Sankara (Lord Siva). He was a high-class devotee. He wanted to glorify bhaktas and Ekadasi, so he played a trick, just as Sankara preached mayavada philosophy on the order of Krsna. Sankara did this for the welfare of the whole world.

On our own, we cannot understand why the sage Durvasa did so many apparently cruel things. Actually he is an exalted devotee, always serving and glorifying Krsna. He wanted to give some teachings to us conditioned souls. That is why, just before Dvadasi/paran (the exact time for breaking the Ekadasi fast), he told Maharaja Ambarisa, “I am accepting your invitation to take prasadam here, but first I must take bath in the river and chant my gayatri mantras.” Yamuna was very near, so he went there to take bath and recite prayers, and he intentionally returned late – after the paran (time for breaking fast) time was over.  

We should try to be humble like Ambarisa Maharaja, and very strong in the conclusions of bhakti. He was so humble that for one year he was waiting for when Durvasa would come back thinking, “I must satisfy him first, and then I can take prasada.”  He was so humble:

trnad api sunicena
taror api sahisnuna
amanina manadena
kirtaniyah sada harih

[“Thinking oneself to be even lower and more worthless than insignificant grass which has been trampled beneath everyone’s feet, being more tolerant than a tree, being pride-less, and offering respect to all others according to their respective positions, one should continuously chant the holy name of Sri Hari.” (Sri Siksastaka, verse 3)]

We should be more humble than a blade of grass which if trampled upon and never protests. We should be more tolerant than trees, whose bark, wood, fruit, shade, and seeds are all for others. Even if you come to cut down the tree, still it will give you shade, fruits, and wood for chairs, beds, etc. Even if it is drying up and dying, still, it will not ask for water. We should be more humble than that tree.

Try to give honor to all, in accordance with their qualifications in bhakti. Don’t desire your own praise. If you are like this, then when you chant and remember, you will be able to attain krsna-prema very easily; otherwise, not.

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