The following is an excerpt from a class given by Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja in Badger, California, on June 20, 1998
Today is ekādaśī. I have discussed before that we have eleven (ekādaśa is the Sanskrit word for eleven) senses including the mind. By ekādaśī, we will always want to be near the Supreme Personality of Godhead. [On the previous ekādaśī, which was June 5th, Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja said, “This is called upa (near)-vāsa (residing).” Upavāsa generally means ‘fasting’, but here Śrīla Mahārāja gives a deeper meaning – the editors.]
If all of our senses are serving the Supreme Lord, we will surely be with the Supreme Godhead. The mind can remember Him; the ears can hear His hari-kathā; the eyes can see the Deities; the head can offer obeisance to the Bhāgavatam, the devotees, and the Deities; the hands can perform arcana; the tongue can speak harikathā and sing kīrtana; and the feet can walk here – this is now a strong and sacred tīrtha where hari-kathā goes on.
There are two gains in this: external and internal. On this very day, until the full moon or new moon day, if you go to the ocean you will see very high waves. Why? The moon has some connection with water. We have water in our bodies. If you do not control what you eat and drink on the ekādaśī day (the eleventh day of the full and new moon), then whatever disease you have may increase from ekādaśī up to the full moon or new moon. If you fully fast, the moon will have no bad effect, but if you take grains, capātīs, bread, and too much water, then it will have an effect. You can take account of the big hospitals and see that so many more patients die from ekādaśī to the full moon or new moon day, and after that it is ‘normal’ again.
If you don’t eat anything that you are not supposed to eat, then all things will be controlled and a good effect will come. Your body will be very strong, healthy, and light, and your digestion will be okay. On the other hand, if you eat bread, for example, it acts like blotting paper. If you drink water, it will pass out of the body as urine or sweat, just as if you pour water on a stone, cloth, or oil, it will go away. However, if you put a heap of cotton in water, that cotton will take days to dry. Even if you squeeze the cotton, it will still contain some water.
[June 5th: Not following ekādaśī will be harmful to us. On ekādaśī the moon comes closer to the Earth, and therefore it attracts water from everywhere – from the seas, rivers, our bodies, and so on. If one takes any grains on this day, the grains become like blotting paper. If you drink water, the water will very soon pass from the body. However, if you take grains and water together, the grains become like blotting paper or cotton and hold the water. Even if you squeeze the cotton, some water will remain.
Similarly, if you eat any grain, that grain becomes like a sponge; it will hold a lot of water. The moon will attract that water and all your diseases will increase. You can see this in the sea or ocean. At this time there are high tides and the waves also become very high.]
Our ṛṣis (sages) were realized in these topics – both materially and spiritually. It is said that we should not take any grain on ekādaśī. If you are influenced by Kali-yuga and become hungry from not taking grains, there is no harm – you can take water or juice. However, you should not take it constantly: first grape juice, then rabrī, then malāī (cream), then mango juice, then apple juice, and after that, very, very good capātīs made with potato flour – eating, eating, and eating. This will have a bad effect on that ekādaśī day.
You can take water twice a day on ekādaśī. Or, if you can’t just do that, you can also take fruits and certain vegetables once in the evening. If you are feeling weak, then you can take water and a little food two times, but don’t take too much; otherwise, you will not get the fruit of ekādaśī. Externally, for worldly reasons, this fasting is good for your health. Also, for poor persons, if they drink water and take nothing else on that ekādaśī day, they don’t have to spend money. If one takes so many things, like juice and dried fruits, it will cost so much.
For your increased spiritual advancement on ekādaśī, if you hear the holy name, chant, remember Kṛṣṇa, and hear Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam in the assembly of devotees, you will quickly develop kṛṣṇa-prema.
For us fallen, conditioned souls, Kṛṣṇa has personally become ekādaśī. Ekādaśī has no consideration of caste or creed. For example, it is not that ekādaśī will give its fruit only to someone who is initiated by Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura. If anyone, irrespective of caste or creed or any designation, follows ekādaśī, he will gain internally and externally.
You may already know the history of Ambarīṣa Mahārāja, so I won’t speak much about it now. He engaged in worldly affairs. He was not a renounced sannyāsī or brahmacārī. He was a great ruler, a king, with a wife and children. He had a large treasury, an army, and so many commanders and priests, but he was superior to Durvāsā Ṛṣi, a brahma-jñānī. If Durvāsā Ṛṣi would curse anyone to die, that person would die; and if anyone had died, then he could sprinkle water on them and say, “Come on, come on, why are you sleeping?” and that person would immediately return to life. Still, Mahārāja Ambarīṣa defeated Durvāsā Ṛṣi. Ambarīṣa Mahārāja considered, “I will have to give honour to ekādaśī, not to any brahma-jñānī or yogī.” He wanted to honour both, but when there was a contradiction, he preferred that ekādaśī should be more honoured than this class of brāhmaṇa.
You may also know the history of Rukmāṅgada and Dharmāṅgada. Rukmāṅgada was a king, a very big emperor, and his son’s name was Dharmāṅgada. He was accustomed to fully observing ekādaśī. He would not eat anything the night before ekādaśī, then he would fully fast on ekādaśī, and on the third day he would take some mahā-prasāda as pāraṇa (the breaking of the fast) after honouring all Vaiṣṇavas and worshipping Kṛṣṇa. After that, he would fast the rest of the day. He did not sleep for three nights, and he would continually chant and remember the Lord.
This is full ekādaśī. In Kali-yuga it is not possible to follow that; this was perhaps in Satya-yuga. Some concessions have been given in Kali-yuga, but don’t take undue advantage of this. Try to follow as much as you can.
Rukmāṅgada was not only practising ekādaśī in that way, but he would make an announcement throughout his kingdom on the day before, that all his subjects should obey him and observe ekādaśī – and all would do so.
When the king became older at about fifty years of age, he gave his kingdom and position to his son, as he wanted to go into the dense forest to fully chant and remember Kṛṣṇa.
In the forest, he was practising all of his spiritual duties. One day a very beautiful, half-naked teenage girl came along, playing and picking flowers. Seeing her standing practically in front of him, the king said to her, “You are so beautiful. Who are you, and why have you come here?” She replied, “I have been searching for a husband, but I have not found anyone in the world to marry. Now I have seen you, who are so beautiful; and even though your age is more than fifty years, you look young, like a youth of sixteen. I want to marry you.”
The king told that girl, “I have left all material things, but you are so beautiful, so I will not neglect you. I want to marry you too.” She said, “If we marry, we will have to return to the kingdom. You will again have to be king, and you will have to obey me.” “No problem,” he replied, “I will obey you.” Then she said, “If you do not obey me, I will at once divorce you.” The king assured her, “I will try to always obey you. I will not neglect you.”
He sent a message to his son: “I am returning with my new wife.” When his son heard this, he became joyful, thinking, “Now my father is coming.” He called to his mother, “Mother, the king is coming with his newly-married wife. You should not think that you are the queen. You should treat her like your older sister and try to serve them both. I will also try to do this.”
This is hard to follow nowadays. If a wife sees her husband smiling and speaking to another girl, especially a young, beautiful teenage girl, she will become upset, thinking, “What to do?! What to do?!” Then, if she again sees this, she may commit suicide, or she may give poison to her husband and his beloved as well. All intelligence disappears at that time. Here, however, when the king came with his new bride, the first queen and her son personally performed āratī to them both. She took the king’s foot-dust and told him, “I am your dāsī, your maidservant.” She continued to serve them as the king and queen. She fully gave up her false ego that, “I am queen.” She always gave preference to them.
All wives should try to be like this. If your husband talks or smiles with another, what harm is it to you? Is there any harm if he loves both you and another lady? Kṛṣṇa had so many queens. Rukmiṇī did not object, nor did Satyabhāmā. Satyabhāmā used to have māna with Kṛṣṇa, but not towards her sisters. Moreover, this was transcendental.
When the next ekādaśī was about to come, the king’s son Dharmāṅgada went out to declare everywhere, “Tomorrow is ekādaśī. All of you please observe it.” The new queen heard this and told her husband, “What is this silly thing? What is ekādaśī? I will not follow it, and you should also not follow it. A king should be smart and strong, and if you fast, then you will be too weak to control the kingdom.”
The king replied, “I cannot give up ekādaśī. I must observe it, and I am asking you to try to observe it.” She said, “I am calling all the brāhmaṇas, and if they say that the king should observe ekādaśī, then you can observe it. If they say that there are no rules and regulations in śāstra for a king or ruler to observe ekādaśī, then you will have to give it up.” He agreed, “Yes, invite them.”
All the brāhmaṇas came, but she had bribed them the night before. Especially in Kali-yuga, brāhmaṇas have become very greedy. They will give up their brahminical principles even if you give them a few Indian rupees. These brāhmaṇas were also greedy, and because they were given so many golden coins, they declared, “A King should not observe ekādaśī. Everywhere in śāstra – in the Bhagavad-gītā, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, and the Purāṇas – it is said that ekādaśī is only for widows, for those who are old and cannot digest or sit properly, and for those who are going to die and have nothing to do. A married lady whose husband is alive should not follow it, and little boys and girls also should not follow it. Only widows should follow it. For rulers, for a king like you, there is no need to follow ekādaśī.” That girl became so happy and said, “You should follow the brāhmaṇas.”
The king argued, “None of them are true brāhmaṇas. I will not follow them. I know they are greedy, and they don’t know scripture.” She replied, “I am going to give you up and return to my father.” The king agreed, “You can go, no harm.”
When that new queen was ready to leave, the first queen came, fell at her feet, and asked, “Why are you doing this? You are my sister, so I would like to give you a good suggestion. Try to obey your husband. He has been following ekādaśī since his childhood, and cannot give it up.”
The girl replied, “I can obey, but on one condition. If you and the king will kill your son and give his head to me on a golden plate as a gift, I will then allow the king to observe ekādaśī.” Hearing this, the king replied, “I don’t want a wife like her. She should go away.”
Happy to hear the girl’s condition, the first wife told the king, “I am your good wife, so please obey me also. After ten, twenty, or a hundred years my son will die. So if we make this sacrifice in relation to following ekādaśī, we will be the ideal example for the entire world, for all time. It is so auspicious to be able to offer the life of our son for the glories of ekādaśī; besides this, we can easily obtain another son. So please accept her proposal, and thus there will be no need to send your Mohinī away.”
The son said to his father, “I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to offer my life for the glories of ekādaśī; please, dear father, grant me this golden opportunity.”
Somehow, his first wife pacified him and he prepared himself. The son now became happy, thinking, “My life is successful because I am serving my father and mother. In fact, I am serving two mothers.”
When the father and mother went to cut off the son’s head, that girl suddenly changed into a deity, and Dharmarāja, a manifestation of Kṛṣṇa, appeared there. Holding up his hand, he said, “Don’t do this. I sent this girl to test you, and you have passed the examination.”
That girl then declared, “I want one thing – if anyone eats grains on ekādaśī, or eats more than he should, the fruit of his good activities (karma) will go to me; I will gain that. If anyone eats grains on ekādaśī, all kinds of sinful reactions will enter that person, and all of his good karma will go to me.” That girl was Mohinī-devī.
We are not realizing the fact of how gainful it is to follow ekādaśī. Ekādaśī is the mother of bhakti. If anyone observes ekādaśī in the right way, bhakti will come automatically. Whether one is a Vaiṣṇava or not, if he observes ekādaśī, surely he will advance in bhakti and become happy.
Therefore, on ekādaśī, by all the ekādaśa (eleven) senses, we can engage in:
śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇoḥ
arcanaṁ vandanaṁ dāsyaṁ
[Prahlāda Mahārāja said: “Hearing and chanting about the transcendental holy name, form, qualities, paraphernalia and pastimes of Lord Viṣṇu, remembering them, serving the lotus feet of the Lord, offering the Lord respectful worship with sixteen types of paraphernalia, offering prayers to the Lord, becoming His servant, considering the Lord one’s best friend, and surrendering everything unto Him (in other words, serving Him with the body, mind, and words) – these nine processes are accepted as pure devotional service.”]
One can practice the sixty-four kinds of bhakti on ekādaśī, thinking, “I will take leave from my office and worldly affairs. In the morning I will perform āratī. All day and night I will not engage in any worldly activities or eat any grains. I will constantly read and hear Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.” Certainly, he will gain from this.
One day in India I saw that a cow was dying, but its soul was not leaving its body. Its stomach was swollen, its eyes were full of tears, and it was so sad. Many persons were looking on, but not doing anything. An elderly lady disciple of mine was passing by and saw that cow. Weeping, she at once went to me and asked, “This cow is not dying and not living – what should I do?” I replied, “Have you followed many ekādaśīs?” She said, “Yes, so many.” I asked, “How many?” She replied, “Since childhood I have been fully fasting on ekādaśī, and also not sleeping at night.” In Mathurā, even little boys and girls fast fully, taking no water, grains, or anything else.
I asked, “Can you give the fruit of one of your ekādaśīs to that cow?” She replied, “Oh, surely.”
I said, “Say in that cow’s ear, ‘O mother cow, I am giving the fruit of one of my ekādaśīs to you. Please take it.’ ” As soon as she did that, the cow looked towards her and then immediately left its body. All were in wonder, thinking, “Oh, how quickly it has been done.”
She also chanted to that cow: “Hare Kṛṣṇa Hare Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Hare Hare, Hare Rāma Hare Rāma Rāma Rāma Hare Hare,” and put Tulasī leaves and Gaṅgā water in its mouth.
You should all have faith like this.
The following is an excerpt from a morning walk conversation with Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja in Badger, Califonia, on June 24, 2007, published in Walking with a Saint – Morning Walks and Conversations 2007
Balarāma dāsa: Can I ask you a question, Gurudeva? Tomorrow is nirjala ekādaśī (to be observed by full fasting, even from water). If there were any defects in our following ekādaśīs during the year, how can we properly observe this nirjala ekādaśī?
Śrīla Bhaktivedanta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: We should try to follow all ekādaśīs. If there was a defect in your observance of any previous ekādaśīs, simply continue practising. By chanting nāma, everything will be okay.
Balarāma dāsa: Should one clean one’s teeth on nirjala ekādaśī?
Śrīla Bhaktivedanta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: Why not? Should you not take bath?
Balarāma dāsa: Bath is not drunk.
Śrīla Bhaktivedanta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: But somehow the water is entering your body. Of course, you must bathe, but do not take caraṇāmṛta on that day; simply offer praṇāma to the caraṇāmṛta.
Balarāma dāsa: What about ācamana?
Śrīla Bhaktivedanta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: Just touch the water to your lips.
Vṛndāvana dāsa: When you do ācamana, the water is supposed to go to your heart. It says in the Hari-bhakti-vilāsa that the proper way to do ācamana is like this (demonstrates) – like a chicken.
Śrīla Bhaktivedanta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: I have not seen this in any scripture.
Vṛndāvana dāsa: It also says that when you take ācamana, it has to come into the body and purify the heart.
Śrīla Bhaktivedanta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: You can take ācamana in that way on other days, but not on ekādaśī.
Śrīpāda Nemi Mahārāja: Actually, if we have somehow or other not observed other ekādaśīs, will observing nirjala ekādaśī compensate?
Śrīla Bhaktivedanta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: I have just answered this. You can compensate only by harināma – not by properly following nirjala ekādaśī. You will have to follow every ekādaśī. Only for Bhīma was a concession given, only for him.
Vṛndāvana dāsa: We always understood that if someone does not observe the other ekādaśīs throughout the year, if he very strictly follows Pāṇḍava nirjala ekādaśī, then he won’t get a bad reaction for not following all of the other ekādaśīs. Is this not true?
Śrīpāda Mādhava Mahārāja: It is not true at all.
Vṛndāvana dāsa: No, but we always thought this. Everyone thought this.
Nṛhari dāsa: It is also stated in Kṛṣṇa-Balarāma Svāmī’s book – the book you told us not to read.
Śrīla Bhaktivedanta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: They are all wrong. ISKCON [the disciples of Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja, but not Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja personally] has discovered this.
Vṛndāvana dāsa: They are doing this because of Bhīma.
Śrīla Bhaktivedanta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: They are not Bhīma.
From ancient times up to the time of the six Gosvāmīs, like Śrī Rūpa and Śrī Sanātana Gosvāmī, devotees used to observe all ekādaśīs as nirjala ekādaśī, without taking even water. Ambarīṣa Mahārāja observed each ekādaśī for three days: on the first day he controlled his eating; on the second day he avoided eating and drinking (nirjala); and on the third day he ate only once.
Śrīpāda Mādhava Mahārāja: The Pāṇḍavas used to regularly observe nirjala ekādaśī, but Bhīma once told Kṛṣṇa, “It is not possible for me to do nirjala every time. Kṛṣṇa replied, “On other ekādaśīs you can take fruits and roots, but you must follow nirjala on this one day.” Bhīma was thus permitted to observe nirjala on this day alone, but he had to observe all the other ekādaśīs. This day is therefore called Pāṇḍava nirjala ekādaśī.
Śrīla Bhaktivedanta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: In India, every ekādaśī is generally observed without food or water. Pūjyapāda Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja saw that the Western devotees were somewhat weak, so he introduced a concession for them. He said that they could take aṇukalpa (eating a little, just to maintain one’s life) three times in the day. However, instead of following aṇukalpa, they took ‘bṛhat-kalpa,’ eating and drinking as much as they could take. Do you understand? This is not good.
Vrajanātha dāsa: They say that if they do not eat sufficiently, they would not have any strength or power.
Śrīla Bhaktivedanta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: Bogus; that was the argument of Mohinī (Mohinī was the enchanting and alluring female creation of Brahmā who tested King Rukmāṅgada, a determined follower of ekādaśī).
The following is an excerpt from a darśana with Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja in Auckland, New Zealand, on January 4, 2008, published in Walking with a Saint – Morning Walks and Conversations 2008
Śyāmarāṇī dāsī: Today is ekādaśī. In relation to ekādaśī, you once told the history of Rukmāṅgada Mahārāja. You said that his first wife was willing to sacrifice the life of her son so that his new wife, Mohinī, would not leave him. What is the value of her sacrificing her own son so that a materialistic woman would stay and be happy with her husband?
Śrīla Bhaktivedanta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: She was a chaste lady (pati-vratā), so she wanted her husband’s vow to be fulfilled. She desired that he would not deviate from his word: “I will always follow ekādaśī.”
Śyāmarāṇī dāsī: That is clear. But Mohinī had told Rukmāṅgada, “If you follow ekādaśī, I will leave you.” Rukmāṅgada was determined to follow ekādaśī whether Mohinī would stay or not. Still, the chaste wife did not want Mohinī to leave. Because of that, she was willing…
Śrīla Bhaktivedanta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: She knew that this new lady was favourable for him in the sense that she could fulfil his desires (kāmavāsanā). She thought, “I cannot satisfy him, but she can; so it is better that she doesn’t go. It is better that she stays with my husband.”
The following is an excerpt from an airport darśana with Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on April 19, 2007, published in Walking with a Saint – Morning Walks and Conversations 2007
Rama-tulasi dāsa: There is a book about ekādaśī that was written by Kṛṣṇa-Balarāma Svāmī. In that book there is a description of a manifestation of that devī. It states that when Kṛṣṇa woke up, He saw her with multiple hands.
Śrīla Bhaktivedanta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: That book is not authentic. Kṛṣṇa Balarāma Svāmī does not follow his own guru, Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja. He thinks, “I was born as a brāhmaṇa and my gurudeva was not; so I am greater than him.” He came to me, but I refused to meet with him. I told him, “You don’t have any faith in your gurudeva or guru-paramparā. Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī was not born in a brāhmaṇa family, but he is equal to Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī, Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī, Śrīla Raghunātha Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī, Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī, and Śrīla Gopala Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī. Śrīla Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura was not a brāhmaṇa by birth, but he was more qualified than any brāhmaṇa.” Kṛṣṇa-Balarāma Svāmī’s thoughts are very bad. It is best not to read his book.
Śrīpāda Padmanābha Mahārāja: In that ekādaśī book he collected many stories from different Purāṇas for each ekādaśī.
Śrīla Bhaktivedanta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: We also have a collection of such histories, but not in English. Ours is in Bengali, but we can translate it into English. That translation will be authoritative.
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