Sri Srimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja
[An eye-opening discourse, given in Badger, California, on June 20, 1998]
Today is Ekadasi. I have discussed about before that we have eleven (ekadasa is the Sanskrit word for eleven) senses including the mind. By Ekadasi, we will always want to be near to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. [On the previous Ekadasi, which was June 5th, Srila Narayana Gosvami Maharaja said, “This is called upa (near)-vasa (residing).” Upavasa is generally taken to mean ‘fasting,’ but here Srila Maharaja is giving the deeper meaning – ed.]
If all of our senses are serving the Supreme Lord, the mind is remembering Him, the ears are hearing His hari-katha, the eyes are seeing the Deities, the head is offering obeisance to the Bhagavatam, the devotees, and the Deities, the hands are performing arcana,the tongue is speaking hari-katha and singing kirtana, the feet are walking here – this is now a strong and sacred tirtha, where hari-katha is going on– you will surely be with the Supreme Godhead.
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 concern with water. We have water in our bodies. If you do not control what you eat and drink on the Ekadasi day (the eleventh day of the full and new moon), then whatever disease you have may increase from Ekadasi up to the full moon or new moon. If you fully fast, the moon will have no bad effect, but if you are taking grains, chappatis, bread, and too much water, then it will have an effect. You can take the accounts in big hospitals and see that so many more patients die from Ekadasi to the full moon or new moon day, and after that it is ‘normal’ again.
If you are not eating anything 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 are eating 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; but if you put a heap of cotton in water, that cotton will take days to dry. Even if you squeeze that ball of cotton, it will still contain some water.
[June 5th: Not following Ekadasi will be harmful to us. On Ekadasi the moon comes closer to the Earth, and therefore it attracts water from everywhere – from the sea, from the river, from 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 out 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 rsis (sages) were realized in these topics –both materially and spiritually. It has been told that we should not take any grain on Ekadasi. If by not taking grains you become hungry and if you are a male or female of Kali-yuga, then no harm, you can take water or juice; but not at every minute: first grape juice, then rabadi, then malai, then mango juice, then apple juice, and after that very, very good chappatis with potato flour – eating, eating, and eating. This will have a bad effect on that Ekadasi day.
You can take water twice a day on Ekadasi. Or, if you can’t just do that, you can also take fruits and 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 much, otherwise you will not get the fruit of Ekadasi. Externally, for worldly reasons, this fasting is good for your health. Also, for poor persons, if one drinks water and take nothing else on that Ekadasi 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 Ekadasi, if you hear the holy name, chant and remembering Krsna, and hear Srimad-Bhagavatam in the assembly of devotees, you will quickly develop krsna-prema.
For us fallen conditioned souls, Krsna has personally become Ekadasi. Ekadasi has no consideration of caste or creed. For example, it is not that Ekadasi will give its fruit only to someone who is initiated by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. If anyone, irrespective of caste or creed or any designation follows Ekadasi, he will gain internally and externally.
You may already know the history of Ambarisa Maharaja, so I won’t speak much about it now. He engaged in worldly affairs. He was not a renounced sannyasi or brahmacari. 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 Durvasa Rsi, a brahma-jnani. If Durvasa Rsi 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. But Maharaja Ambarisa defeated Durvasa Rsi.
Amabarisa Maharaja considered, “I will have to give honor to Ekadasi, not to any brahma-jnani or yogi.” He wanted to honor both, but when there was a contraction, he preferred that Ekadasi should be more honored than this class of brahmana.
You may also know the history of Rukmanga and Dharmanga. Rukmanga was a king, a very big emperor, and his son’s name was Dharmanga. He was accustomed to fully observing Ekadasi. He would not eat anything the night before Ekadasi, then he would fully fast on Ekadasi, and on the third day he would take some mahaprasadam as parana(the breaking of the fast) after honoring all Vaisnavas and worshipping Krsna, and 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 Ekadasi. 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.
Rukmanga was not only practicing Ekadasi 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 Ekadasi – 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 Krsna.
In the forest he was practicing all his spiritual duties, but 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 these material things. But you are so beautiful, so I will not neglect you. I want to marry you as well.” 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 new married wife. You should not think 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. But here, when the king came with his new bride, the first queen and her son personally performed arati to them both. She took the king’s foot-dust and told him, “I am your dasi, 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.
We should try to be a wife like this. If your husband is talking or smiling with another, what harm is it to you? Is there any harm if he loves both you and another lady? Krsna had so many queens. Rukmini did not object, nor did Satyabhama. Satyabhama used to have maan with Krsna, but not towards her sisters. Moreover, this was transcendental.
When the next Ekadasi was about to come, the king’s son Darmangada went out to declare everywhere, “Tomorrow is Ekadasi. All of you please obverse it.” The new queen heard this and told her husband, “What is this silly thing? What is Ekadasi? 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 Ekadasi. I must observe it, and I am asking you to try to observe it.” She said, “I am calling all the brahmanas, and if they say that the king should observe Ekadasi, then you can observe it. If they say that there are no rules and regulations in sastra for a king or ruler to observe Ekadasi, then you will have to give it up.” He agreed, “Yes, invite them.”
All the brahmanas came, but she had bribed them the night before. Especially in Kali-yuga, brahmanas have become very greedy. They will give up their brahminical principles even if you give them a few Indian rupees. These brahmanas were also greedy, and because they were given so many golden coins, they declared, “A king should not observe Ekadasi. Everywhere in sastra – in the Gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, or the Puranas – it has been told that Ekadasi 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, and little boys and girls should also not follow. Only widows should follow. For rulers, for a king like you, there is no need to follow Ekadasi.”That girl became so happy and said, “You should follow the brahmanas.”
The king argued, “None of them are true brahmanas. 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 Ekadasi 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 Ekadasi.” The first queen became very happy and 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 Ekadasi, we will be the ideal example for the entire world, for all time.”
Hearing this, the king replied, “I don’t want a wife like her. She should go away.”
Somehow his first wife pacified him and he became ready. 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.” Now, when the father and mother came to cut off the son’s head, that girl was at once changed into a Deity, and a manifestation of Krsna, Dharmaraja 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. You passed the examination, but if anyone will take a grain on Ekadasi, or if he eats beyond what he should be eating, the fruit of his good activities (karma) will come to me. I will gain that. If anyone is taking grains on Ekadasi, all kind of sinful reactions will come to that person, and his all good karma will come to me.” That lady was Mohini-devi.
We are not realizing this fact – how gainful it is to follow Ekadasi. Ekadasi is the mother of bhakti. If anyone observes Ekadasi in the right way, bhakti automatically will come. Whether one is a Vaisnava or not, if he observes Ekadasi, surely he will advance in bhakti and become happy.
Therefore, on Ekadasi, by all the ekadasa (eleven) senses, we can engage in:
sravanam kirtanam visnoh
arcanam vandanam dasya
[Prahlada Maharaja said: “Hearing and chanting about the transcendental holy name, form, qualities, paraphernalia and pastimes of Lord Visnu, 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 Ekadasi day, thinking, “I will take leave from my office and worldly affairs, in the morning performing arati and until the night not engaging in any worldly activities, not taking any grains, and always reading and hearing Bhagavatam.” Certainly he will gain from this.
In India, one day, I saw that a cow was dying but her soul was not leaving her body. Her stomach was swollen, her eyes were full of tears, and she was so sad. Many persons were looking on, but doing nothing. An elderly lady-disciple of mine was passing by and saw her. She at once came to me, weeping, and told me, “This cow is not dying, and not living.” What should I do?” I asked her, “Have you followed many Ekadasis?” She said, “Yes, so many.” I said, “How many?” She replied, “On the Ekadasi day, since childhood I have been fully fasting and also not sleeping in the night.” In Mathura, even little boys and girls fast fully –taking no water or grain or anything else.
I said, “Can you give the fruit of one of your Ekadasis to that cow?” She said, “O surely.”
I said, “Tell that cow in her ear, ‘O Mother cow, I am giving the fruit of one of my Ekadasis to you. Please take it.'”As soon as she did that, the cow looked towards her and then immediately left her body. All were in wonder, thinking,”Oh, how quickly it has been done.”
She also chanted to that cow: “Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare,” and gave her tulasi leaves and Ganga water in her mouth.
You should all have faith like this.