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 practicing. 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 Citrāṅga, a determined follower of Ekādaśī.)
Yaśasvinī dāsī: If someone performs nirjala Ekādaśī but takes your personal prasādam remnants, does that break the Ekādaśī?
Śrīla Bhaktivedanta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja: Yes.
Yaśasvinī dāsī: So which is better – to do nirjala and take Gurudeva’s remnants, or do nirjala and not take it?
Śrīpāda Mādhava Mahārāja: You can keep Gurudeva’s remnants for honouring on the day after nirjala. [In that way nirjala is protected and the devotee is also honouring Gurudeva’s prasādam.]