The Inner Meaning of Ekadasi

dsp41By Swami B.V. Tripurari

I was walking with Srila Prabhupada once and one of my Godbrothers asked, “Prabhupada, is Ekadasi auspicious or inauspicious?” In other words, do we observe certain practices on Ekadasi because the stellar arrangement is inauspicious and we seek to counteract that influence, or is it simply auspicious to observe Ekadasi? And if it is auspicious, why do we do things like fasting and so forth? Prabhupada replied, “Ekadasi is most auspicious, and it is not about fasting; it’s about feasting.”

Upavasa (fasting) also means to “reside” (vasa) “nearby” (upa), and thus the real principle of Ekadasi is to reside near Bhagavan. It’s not about fasting; it is about coming closer to the Godhead. Although everyday is God’s day, two days have been singled out as “Hari’s day” to emphasize the point. The hope is that we will then spend these days moving nearer to Bhagavan through Hari-bhakti, and upon finding how relishable these experiences are, we will end up doing them everyday into eternity. This is the idea that our Ekadasi observance should revolve around. If fasting is only making me sleepy or proud, what is the value of it?

When I was residing in the Caitanya Saraswat Math, we would take Ekadasi prasadam on the day of Ekadasi, but there was one devotee from another math residing there who would always observe Nirjala Ekadasi, fasting from all food and water. When the rest of the devotees would sit and take lunch, he would walk near them and chant Harinama very loudly. And although he was chanting Harinama, if you listened carefully you could hear, “Just see my standard, you are eating, but I’m observing Nirjala Ekadasi!” His fasting was only fostering his pride, which has no ability to bring us closer to Hari and thereby fulfill the purpose underlying the Ekadasi—vrata.

In the same math on another occasion, there was one sannyasi Godbrother of mine visiting, and during the arati he led the kirtan while leaping and dancing in abandon. After the arati he came to take the darshan of Pujyapada Sridhara Maharaja, and in the end of the discussion that ensued, Sridhara Maharaja asked him to please honor Ekadasi prasada. However, the sannyasi replied that for many years he had maintained a vow of fasting from food and drink on Ekadasi. In surprise Sridhara Maharaja said “Leaping high in the air and dancing while leading the kirtan, and observing nirjala at the same time?” Although impressed with his vow, Pujyapada Sridhara Deva asked him again “You will not take anything—no Ekadasi prasada from our math?” To this the sannyasi replied that although this had been his vow for many years, if it would please Sridhara Maharaja then he would break it and honor Mahaprabhu’s prasada. Sridhara Maharaja was very pleased with his response, and whenever he would tell this story he would conclude that “This sannyasi has understood Vaishnavism.” To come closer to the Vaishnava, closer to Bhagavan, this is the purpose of the Ekadasi-vrata. In some instances breaking the law is necessary to observe its spirit. For every law there is a higher law on the way to love, where all law finds its fulfillment.

Ekadasi is a particular phase of the moon, which is said to have some influence on fluids—the tides being the prime example. The human body is constituted of water more than any other element, and during Ekadasi it is said that the water in the body shifts in such a way that it puts pressure on the senses, making them more prone to enjoy. Because of this, Ekadasi would seem inauspicious, pressuring our senses to enjoy and thereby impeding our upavasa, or moving closer to Hari. According to this thinking, we fast to counteract the influence of the moon and focus our energy on Bhagavan.

Still, Prabhupada said that Ekadasi is “most auspicious,” “it is not about fasting,” and furthermore, “it is about feasting.” But how so? For the siddha, who lives in the aprakrta (transcendent yet humanlike) conception of the Absolute, Krishna is just like us. Yasoda is not thinking that Krishna is the supreme Godhead, and neither are the cowherds or the young gopis. “My son,” “my friend,” “my lover”—they are thinking along these lines. Thinking that Krishna is human, they also think that on Ekadasi there is the same pressure on Krishna’s senses to enjoy more, so they can offer him more on this day. “We can offer more prasadam, we can satisfy his senses more and although we are already giving everything, by the grace of this phase of the moon, he can take even more!” So they increase all their service, and in this way it is a most auspicious day. Of course, they also observe Ekadasi in consideration of the lower perspective in relation to their service to Narayana, their household deity. They observe viddhi (rules) in the context of their raga (loving attachment).

We should try to come to this aprakrta conception, to make it our ideal. We should try to serve Krishna so nicely on Ekadasi that our fasting, rather than being an austerity, is merely the result of having no time to eat because we are so busy serving his senses.

This article was adapted from a discourse of Swami B.V. Tripurari, available here.

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35 Responses to The Inner Meaning of Ekadasi

  1. Dear Prabhu
    Please accept my humble obaisences
    All glories to Srila Prabhupada
    Thank you for sending this article, the point is this Ambarish Maharaja observed this vow very carefully. And Durvasa Muni tried to brake his vow, but still Ambarish Maharaja remained fixed an did not dishonor Durvasa Muni.Though in his offensive mind Durvasa Muni thought he had done so.Actually the person that fast fully on Nirjala ekadasi or observes eadasis as Nirjala is superior to those who neglect to do so.Actually those who at least neglect Pandava Nirjala ekadasi has been condemned by Srila Vyasdeva himself. The danger in Tripurari Maharaja’s article is there is some faultfinding of those who follow Sriman Mahaprabhus strict example of not taking anything on ekadasis. Lord Caitanya never accepted even a drop of water on ekadasis and Visnutattva appearance days, this example was also set by the 6 Goswamis. However due to the progress of Kali yuga many think that eating and non eating is the same.We have seen now how many persons claiming themselves to be devotees also take grains on Janmastami .Some persons even take grains on ekadasi in secret.This is all irreligious .I do find it very interesting that Srila Sridhara Swami pointed out that why is this person leaping in Kirtana and doing Nirjala . For persons like myself generally such things are not possible.But I am sure more advanced devotees that practice Nirjala ekadasi ,ekadasi after ekadasi can do such things.This said I am not faulting HH Sridhara Swami or whom I have much respect and veneration. Lord Gauranga and his associates would chant and dance and leap in Kirtana also on ekadasis while doing Nirjala

    .This is sastric praman.Yes certainly we should not pride ourselves with doing Nirjala ekadasi, but surely also if we fail to do Pandava Nirjala ekadasi neglecting the instruction of Srila Vyasadeva on this issue.Weh have become more than proud and offensive to neglect his instructions on this matter.

    (HARI BHAKTI VILASA 15/33 PADMA PURANA Srila Vyasadeva speaks to Bhimasena)
    Any person who does not fast on this particular Ekadasi (nirjala Ekadasi), they should be understood to be sinful, corrupted and suiciding person without a doubt.
    My pranams at the feet of Tripurari Maharaja and the members of Gaudiya Matha.I am in ISKCON but I pray to Lord Ca itanya that the institutional
    ties do not limit our love and respect for other vaisnavas outside our paticular institution.
    With much love and devotion
    your humble servant
    Payonidhi das
    PS thank you also for the beautiful picture of Krsna and Balarama at Nandagrama during the Nisa lilas with Nanda Maharaja, this picture is a great udipana for me

    • I think perhaps a closer reading is in order. The article points out the shortcoming of engaging in a practice superficially, in a way that is disconnected from its spirit. Now, some devotees may take this point and use it as an excuse to justify being loose with ekadasi-vratas, or condemn those who are not willing to similarly “loosen up,” but does that mean that Swami Tripurari should not point out this shortcoming? Is there an example anywhere ever of knowledge not being misused by someone?

      The real point of the article is that in some instances devotees might deviate from the literal strictures of ekadasi in order to please Krishna, and in such instances where Krishna is more pleased by this as determined by the acarya such so called deviation is better than literal observance of the law. There is the example of Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta giving his brahmachari disciple grains on Janmastami so that he could go out and preach. Or in the beginning of Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada’s mission his students were not fasting from grains on Visnu-tattva tithis. The point is that such adjustments are better when they better facilitate bhakti.

      So there is a spirt and letter to the law, and sometimes it may be best and more pleasing to Krishna when a devotee does not fast entirely on ekadasi, as compared to strictly following this vow even in the right spirit. The example of the sannyasi being more pleasing to Sridhara Maharaja by breaking his vow and taking the math’s prasada illustrates the point well. What then to speak of following the law mindlessly divorced from its spirit such that it engenders pride, etc. Is this better than the example of a humble devotee following an adjusted form of the ekadasi vow in the correct spirit?

      The verse you cited from HBV was there when the acaryas mentioned above formed their policies. So there must be some explanation to harmonize their policies with the mandate for fasting on ekadasi, etc. And we should not think that such extenuating circumstances will never occur again.

    • Srila Prabhupada and Srila Sridhara Maharaja are giving higher conceptions of Ekadasi, which don’t actually contradict Srila Vyasadeva as there are different levels of fasting. Srila Prabhupada was viewing Ekadasi from the perspective of the lila, and Srila Sridhara Maharaja was showing the superior position of Vaisnava-seva (he praised the devotee because he understood that following the desire of a Vaisnava is more important than strict observance of Nirjala Ekadasi). Sripad Tripurari Maharaja has highlighted the exalted conceptions of his gurus, so no danger there (any more than merely opening one’s mouth makes one vulnerable to having one’s ideas distorted).

    • .Actually the person that fast fully on Nirjala ekadasi or observes eadasis as Nirjala is superior to those who neglect to do so.

      Superior in what sense?
      Certainly one who observes a nirjala fast may be considered superior in her physical ability to remain healthy even without food or water for one day. Certainly one who observes the nirjala fast may be considered superior in her ability to restain the senses. I think the above article is only suggesting that these abilities to physically abstain from food and water or mentally withstand the pull of the senses on ekadasi do not in and of themselves produce or signify devotion. One may motivated by the desire for recognition, piety, wealth, entrance into svarga-loka, etc. These motivations, however, don’t bring one to the sadya Mahaprabhu has given. In fact, indulging the aspiration for these things by observing a nirjal fast on ekadasi may actually result in the fulfillment of such desires, which would only serve to bring one further away from the sadya, not closer.
      The followers of the karma-kanda and jnana-kanda may observe the nirjal fast on ekadasi and achieve their desired results. They may be comparatively superior to many vaisnavas in sense control and in faith in some portions of the sastra, however, the zenith of their aspiration still falls short of those vaisnavas.

      The danger in Tripurari Maharaja’s article is there is some faultfinding of those who follow Sriman Mahaprabhus strict example of not taking anything on ekadasis.

      The article is not a blanket criticism of those who observe the nirjal fast in pursuance of Mahaprabhu’s example. It is however offering such persons some insight about the heart of the observance of ekadasi and inviting them to examine their own motivations for doing so. Far from being dangerous, it is in fact giving the opportunity for us to avoid the danger of pride. Unwillingness to examine our motivations is the real danger.

      I find your statement below to be indicative of quite a dangerous mentality indeed, very much in the spirit of faultfinding:

      We have seen now how many persons claiming themselves to be devotees also take grains on Janmastami .Some persons even take grains on ekadasi in secret.

  2. While observance of ekadasi is considered important, it is an indirect means to attaining one’s sought after spiritual sentiment (bhava), whereas serving one’s guru is a direct means to the same. This may help us to understand how the eakadsi observance has been adjusted over the centuries. Sanatana Goswamis himself has explained circumstances relative to his time that give rise to adjusting this vow without diminishing its result. Old age and infirmity—relative terms—have been cited by the Goswami as conditions that merit adjusting the nature of fasting on Ekadasi.

    In this way our acarya has indirectly licensed successive gurus to adjust how their students can effectively observe ekadasi in consideration of time, place, and circumstance with the passage of time. And this is exactly what thousands of gurus have done. How shall devotees observe ekadasi?— with deference to the order and insight of their guru who understands the spirit of the scripture—srotriyam.

    In his commentary on Ragavartma-candrika the learned Ananta das Pandit has written that “If one is not able to fast entirely, one may just eat fruits and roots instead as a substitute. This is generally considered a cutting down of the fast, but in the worship of Sri Hari such a substitute is not considered a climbdown.” The reason for this is that the observance of ekadasi is two fold: fasting that results in remembering Govinda—fasting and remembering Govinda. The latter is the direct cause of attaining bhava and the former is an indirect cause promoting the latter. So even if one follows an adjusted form of fasting but in doing so better remembers Govinda, one’s observance is flawless.

    • Madan Gopal das

      This may help us to understand how the eakadsi observance has been adjusted over the centuries. Sanatana Goswamis himself has explained circumstances relative to his time

      And let’s not forget that the nirjal ekadasi was itself an adjustment for Bhima…

  3. Lets face it , the stricter observance the better, of course as mentioned above there also has to be constant remembrance of Krsna by hearing and chanting.Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has sung in his Suddha Bhakata carana renu:
    madhava-tithi, bhakti-janani, jatane palana kori, krsna-basoti, basoti boli’, parama adare bori

    [“I very carefully observe the holy days like Ekadasi and Janmastami for they are the mother of devotion. Krsna stays in these tithis, so by honoring them we can easily achieve Him. By deeply respecting Krsna’s lila-sthana (pastime places), they will give me their blessings.” (Suddha-Bhakata by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, verse 2)]
    In Kali yuga however there is a tendency to become slack and less strict in devotional service. Actually fasting on Pandava Nirjala ekadasi is mandatory if one brakes any ekadasi .I still take the quote to heart from Srila Vyasadeva -he is also our Guru and head of our Sampradaya .Srimad Bhagavatam has glorified Srila Vyasadeva for example in the Narayana Kavacha:SB 6.8.19
    May the Personality of Godhead in His incarnation as Vyāsadeva protect me from all kinds of ignorance resulting from the absence of Vedic knowledge. May Lord Buddhadeva protect me from activities opposed to Vedic principles and from laziness that causes one to madly forget the Vedic principles of knowledge and ritualistic action. May Kalkideva, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who appeared as an incarnation to protect religious principles, protect me from the dirt of the age of Kali.
    Srila Vyasadeva has explained clearly the glories of Pandava Nirala ekadasi ,what others do it is not my business . However I try to follow the instructions given by Srila Vysadeva in this matter.
    please see
    an online version abut this subject .
    Srla Prabhupada’s statement on this matter are the final authority as far as I am concerned:
    The Nectar of Devotion, Srila Prabhupada’s summary study of Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, states: “In the Brahma-vaivarta Purana it is said that one who observes fasting on Ekadasi day is freed from all kinds of reactions to sinful activities and advances in pious life. The basic principle is not just to fast, but to increase one’s faith and love for Govinda, or Krsna. The real reason for observing fasting on Ekadasi is to minimize the demands of the body and to engage our time in the service of the Lord by chanting or performing similar service. The best thing to do on fasting days is to remember the pastimes of Govinda and to hear His holy name constantly.”
    Later in The Nectar of Devotion, Srila Prabhupada cites the observance of Ekadasi as a stimulus (uddipana) for ecstatic love: “Some things which give impetus or stimulation to ecstatic love of Krsna are His transcendental qualities, His uncommon activities, His smiling features, His apparel and garlands, His flute, His buffalo horn, His leg bells, His conchshell, His footprints, His places of pastimes (such as Vrndavana), His favorite plant (tulasi), His devotee and the periodical occasions for remembering Him. One such occasion for remembrance is Ekadasi, which comes twice a month on the eleventh day of the moon, both waning and waxing. On that day all the devotees remain fasting throughout the night and continuously chant the glories of the Lord.”
    Regarding the pastime of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Prabhuapda asking a disciple to take grains on Janmastami , he actually only took anukalpaprasadam (ekadasi style prasadam) .I have read Srila Sridhara Maharajas memory of this, and this is what he explained.
    I have written something on fasting on Janmastami as in ISKCON it has become a common deviation to take grains on Janmastami .Similarly also som temples serve grains on Ramanavami , Narasimha Caturdasi etc .

    • Regarding the pastime of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Prabhuapda asking a disciple to take grains on Janmastami , he actually only took anukalpaprasadam (ekadasi style prasadam) .I have read Srila Sridhara Maharajas memory of this, and this is what he explained.

      You are right that the disciple, Hayagriva (later Madhava Maharaja), took only ekadasi Prasadam. But Bhaktisiddhanata told him to take rice. From the Sridhar Maharaja folio:

      when Hayagriva Brahmacari was to go that day was Janmastami. Prabhupada asked his own cook, feed him with rice, on Janmastami day. “He will have to take a tedious journey and his energy will be wasted, but he has got that important duty to fix that house there, so him rice.” That was his order. But Hayagriva hesitated, and his cook also hesitated. Maharaja, anyhow this sabhu, the plantain and the curd, all these things together he took on Janmastami Day. Not rice.

      Afterwards also Sridhara Maharaja notes that Professor Sanyal, by comparison, would have certainly taken grains, because it was his nature to do anything BSST said. Would he have been at fault?

      Otherwise, the very quote you posted from Srila Prabhupada further confirms the thrust of the article. “The best thing to do is to chant and remember Govinda. So, in the event that fasting would be at odds with this, fasting, not hearing and chanting, is to be put aside.

      • Thank you kindly Nitaisundara Prabhu.Actually if we read Hari Bhakti Vilasa eating grains on Janmastami is never allowed. But for preaching Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Prabhupada authorized it on that occasion, it must have been some important preaching.In India no one ever takes grains on India on Janmastami if they are pious hindus o devotees.
        I just found a very nice articel by His Divine Grace Srila Sridhara Swami about ekadasi, he also states that Nirjala fasting is better than taking anukalpa prasadam.
        “We take some types of food, and not others, because they are considered to be less injurious, and less exciting to the body. Also it is mentioned in Hari-bhakti-vilasa, that some particular sins are fond of taking shelter in those foods that we reject. Papa means a type of sin that is very fond of taking shelter in grains and those places which we surely want to avoid. First-class fasting means without even taking water (nirjal). Those who cannot do without food, may take fruit, roots, and milk. ”

        What Srila Sridhara Swami is refering to is the statement from Padma Purana about how Papapurusha takes shelter of grains on ekadasi [] it appears the same is true for Janamstami and other Visnutattva days as it often says in Hari Bhakti Vilasa one eats al sins in the world by taking grains on forexample Janmastami)
        Here is on example:
        Lord Brahma instructs Narada in the Visnu Rahasya, “Anyone who eats grains on Janmastami day becomes filled with all categories of sin performed in the three worlds, and takes birth as a snake in the forest.”

        my humble pranams at the lotusfeet of all vaisnavas

      • Is there a book where I can read this memory and more ?
        Is there a website link ?

        Please post .. thanks Hare Krishna

  4. Actually it appears we are talking about the same lecture by Srila Sridhara Swami because he mentions about Professor Sanyal .
    We should not underestimate Nirjala fasting, one is better than the other. Prahlada Maharaja asked Lord Narasimha how he became His devotee.Lord Narasimha explained to Prahlada maharaja that in his privus life he once fasted fully on Narasimha Catudasi, due to a lovers quarel with his prostitute girlfriend. Due to this fasting the lady went to Vaikuntha for only once fasting fully on Narasimha Caturdasi like a Nirjala fast,And this Vasudeva became the exalted Prahlada Maharaja.This is in the 14th Vilasa f Hari Bhakti Vilasa.Regarding Pandava Nirjala it is stated one will return to the spiritual world, this is the assurance of Srila Vyasadeva and quoted by Srila Sanatana Goswami in the 15 Vilasa of Hari Bhakti Vilasa.
    Also strictly speaking it is better to do 24 hours fasting on Janmastami ,that is also explained in Hari Bhakti Vilas, actually taking anything at midnight is not very good.But since our Acaryas has allowed it( It appears this standard was introduced by Srila Bhaktisiddhata Prabhuapda and later brought to the west by Srila Pabhupada who one the very first Janmastami in ISKCON only served cut fruits .For those unabel or unwilling to fast untill next day
    they can take anukalpa prasadam at midnight.

    • I think some subtlety is being missed here. Here a the question. Which is better?

      1. To fast from food and drink on ekadasi but become and proud of oneself and hard hearted and so irritable that one forgets Govinda.
      2. To honor anukalpa prasada on ekadasi and grow in humility and have the energy and enthusiasm to hear and chant and remember Govinda.

      This is a hypothetical case in which a devotee tells you that her experience is that when she fasts entirely the result is number 1, and when she takes anukalpa the result is number two.

      How shall we advise her? Is there a rule and a spirit of the rule, or is there only a rule.

  5. Maharaja your observation is obvious, if anyone is not able to follow as you have described, then it is better they take anukalp a prasadam. Sri Caitanya allowed anukalpa prasadam even while he personally observed nirjala. This is explained in Prema Vaivarta.

    “One should not taste anything nor should any mundane topics be discussed on Ekadasi. All physical pleasures should be proscribed. It is a Vaisnava’s duty to daily honor and eat only prasadam, for he never consumes unoffered food. On ekadasi a devotee observes complete fasting, and the next day he breaks his fast with maha-prasadam. and if, for some reason, one has to eat on ekadasi, then let the Vaisnavas take anukalpa, a light meal consisting of merely fruits, roots and milk, without grains or beans or other prohibited vegetables.”

    But for sannyasis to follow the example set by Sriman Mahaprabhu is most befitting and pleasing to the Lord and all. The strict observance of ekadasi will give us renewed spiritual everything. And if all follow the sannyasis in this way, this observance will become even more dear to all vaisanvas and please Mahaprabhu even more.

    This is my humble understanding.I am just a tiny jiva with many faults. My pranams at the feet of vaisnavas. Their mercy is the stick by which I walk.I am just a tiny jiva with many faults.

  6. Sripad Tripurari Maharaj’s article is in essence explaining that the purpose of ekadasi is first and foremost for the pleasure of Krishna and its obeservance must have this as its goal rather than any self-centric purpose even self-upliftment.

    We learnt form our Guru Maharaj, Srila Sridhar Maharaj that the only reason for the Vaishnavas fasting on Ekadasi is for the Lord’s satisfaction and not the avoidance of pap or sin. The Vaishnavas only take the Maha-Prasad of the Lord and pap beign entirely mundane can never reside in Maha-Prasad. Often Srila Sridhar Maharaj would have his disciples take rice on Ekadasi if they had some physical work or long journey. However the Math residents only take anukalpa-prasad at Midday on Ekadasi and Sripad Aranya Maharaj even to this day (although in his nineties now)begins his fast from sunset on the adivas (day before)and fasts nirjala (without water) every Ekadasi. Srila Govinda Maharaj (the present Acharrya of Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math)has many times told Sripad Aranya Maharaj that now he is very elderly it is not neccessary for him to continue this practice. Sripad Aranya Maharaj’s reply is, “I know that but it is my habit.” I really pray that when I am 90(if I live that long)I can say I have those kind of habits, alas I think the truth will be far from that.

  7. Fasting cleans the human body. It can be through Ekadashi / Roja (Islam calendar). Prabhupad’s explanation only confuses the mind.
    Hare Krishna..! Jai Radhe…!

  8. with…duw respect and shri hari to all the mahatmas. lord vishnu is everywhere and sees us everytime. Vasudevam Kutumbakam. If we fast by way of fast or feast by way of feast…god still sees us. if we fast or feast our bhava of samrpana is what god requires. If that is acheived by fast then its a feast! i have written and submitted at my lords feet

  9. Hare Krishna.
    There are so many rules and regulations.Which to follow and what not to follow. They are all trying to kill my mortal body and ignorance. There are so many concessions and arguments. It is said that Bhakti Yoga is the easiest for this Kaliyuga but upon observation it is appearing more complex as I move deeper in it and the most difficult to practice. Perhaps I should use my freewill to choose what is best for me and leave the result in the hands of the Guru and Gauranga. Perhaps I forgot that despite types of Yoga, the destination is still the same distance away from the different type of Sadhaka. Perhaps this is why they say do your best and don’t expect from the result because whatever you do as austerity, you will never see the result in this life and this depends on faith; our degree of surrender and wish to be with Krishna. Better take it that this Human Life is the exams for entry to the Spiritual World and we are to do our best to win maximum marks. Some view Ekadashi as the easy questions with the most of marks. It’s up to the sadhaka to decide how much he will surrender to each and every instruction not to say which questions he chooses to answer in the exam paper of Life.

    • Syamasundara dasa

      Perhaps I should use my freewill to choose what is best for me and leave the result in the hands of the Guru and Gauranga

      This sentence is problematic. The whole point of surrendering to a guru is that we don’t know what’s best for us, since we haven’t even realized who we are.

      • @Syamasundara Dasa,
        As one of my friend pointed out upon reading your comment, He says that you could not have surrendered to any guru but must have use your freewill in the process. Having taken the greatest decision by your own freewill,all other decisions are very small in comparison which you can take without falling / going astray and using your free will. Sadhana is done as per free will, it cannot be done under compulsion.
        From my side I will say that upon accepting a Guru, one does not become a Zombie but continues to use freewill to execute Guru orders.

  10. Hare Krsna, dandavat pranams to all.

    This sentence is problematic. The whole point of surrendering to a guru is that we don’t know what’s best for us, since we haven’t even realized who we are.

    I beg to differ, Prabhus. You choose to surrender to a Guru as per your freewill. Having taken the greatest decision by your own freewill,all other decisions are very small in comparison which you can take without falling / going astray and using your free will. Sadhana is done as per free will, it cannot be done under compulsion.

  11. Audarya-lila dasa

    First we get some faith, then we associate with Sadhus, then when (if) we become serious to progress in bhakti we take shelter of Sri Guru and under his/her expert direction and careful guidance we engage ourselves in bhakti sadhana. Of course free will is always there – but for effective sadhana we should place ourselves at the feet of Sri Guru and beg to be engaged according to his/her determination.

    We have free will and we can choose to engage according to our own whims or thoughts and then hope it will somehow be pleasing to Sri Guru and Gauranga – but the path laid out by our acharyas calls for engaging in sadhana under the care and direction of Sri Guru. The question must be asked of course ‘why would someone take diksha or siksha from Sri Guru and not engage themselves according to such a guides expert instruction?’

  12. Ajamila Dasa acbsp

    Srila Prabhupada said REAL Ekadasi is nirjal. End of story. All other interpretations are not real.

    Ekadasi vrata ki jaya!


    Ajamila dasa acbsp

    • Here is what he really said: “Real Ekadasi means fasting and chanting and no other business. When one observes fasting the chanting becomes easier. So on Ekadasi other business can be suspended as far as possible unless there is some urgent business.”

      • Here is what Prabhupada said about NIRJAL:

        “Prabhupada, ‘Oh yes. Ekadasi, simply you should chant. No other business. Nirjala.’”

        SP morning walk July 5, 1975.

        Hari Hari



        • In terms of an authoritative position on the subject, you may be interested in this: My disciple, Bhrigupada dasa, published a book entitled Dearest to Vishnu, Ekadasi that is a translation and explanation of how to follow ekadasi according to Sanatana Goswami’s Hari-bhakti-vilasa.

        • First, we look to what Srila Prabhupada emphasized.

          In essence, he emphasized NIRJAL as per the sastras.

          For those who can’t follow nirjal he gave us anukalpa.

          If one can’t do nirjal he should not try to change what Prabhupada wanted us to do.

          While nirjal has its down sides it has too many up sides that eventually prevail and can’t be ignored by a forlorn soul like me attempting to go back to Goloka in this life time.

          Hari Hari



        • Really everyone should follow the lead of their particular guru on the details of how to observe ekadasi, all of whom in essence follow Sanatana Goswami’s authoritative scriptural statements cited in HBV, while differing in detail. What is important is not the detail that is subject to change or alteration, but the essence of the vrata.

  13. Ajamila Dasa acbsp

    SP defines the essence of Ekadasi vrata in NOD as “Krishna Prema”.

    The gopis asked Radha what is the best vrata to get Krishna and the reply was EKADASI. (Brahma Vaivarta Purana)

    Anukalpa is for those below age 8 and over 80, and the weak minded and diseased. HBV

    All the Pandavas did nirjal Ekadasi, even Kunti. Bhima once a year.

    To trivialise such an important vrata is to apply the same to our Mothers of devotion, as described by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur.

    Better than criticising those imperfectly attempting to attain fast track Krishna prema through nirjal Ekadasi is to glorify and encourage them to keep doing it until they perfect it.

    Hari Hari



    • It is beyond me how you could possibly characterize my comment as trivializing observance of nirjala ekadasi or criticizing those who attempt it. Meanwhile you have referred to other approaches to observing ekadasi as “unreal.” Yes, HBV states one thing and SP did another. He regularly observed anukalpa before reaching the age of 80, set that example, and taught his disciples to do the same, while also glorifying nirjala observance. Thus it is clear that he felt nirjala observance as described in HBV was a detail that could be adjusted.

      The place of the ekadasi vrata in raga marga sadhana is significant but in and of itself it is not a fast tract to prema. In VCT’s Ragavartma-candrika it is considered compulsory and an indirect cause of prema because it fosters remembrance of Govinda, which in turn is a direct cause—svabhista-bhavamaya. Thus the essence of the vrata is to remember Govinda.

    • Ajamila Prabhu, if I may give my own understanding of fast-track to Krishna-prema, that is pointed out by Mahaprabhu in the CC Madhya 22.128 and by Rupa Goswami in the BRS.
      They are: 1) Association with devotees, 2) Chanting Harinama, 3) Hearing Srimad Bhagavatam, 4) Worshipping the Deities, 5) Residing in the place of Krishna’s pastimes.
      Observing Ekadashi is not explicitly mentioned here.

      • Ajamila Dasa acbsp

        Bhaktivinoda Thakur: “The holy days like Ekadasi and Janmastami are the mother of devotion for those devotees who respect them.”

        The point on the topic is it’s not proper Vaisnava behaviour to ridicule a neophyte attempting to do Ekadasi nirjal even with improper motivation.

        It’s more representative of Vaisnava compassion to encourage such a person to keep doing nirjal every Ekadasi because such chanting will soon bring such a devotee to a higher humble state of mind.

        • Ajamila Prabhu,

          I do not think anyone is ridiculing you for attempting to follow nirjal Ekadasi. I think everyone is responding to your claim that nirjal is the only way to follow Ekadasi and that you are therefore implying that anyone who does not follow nirjal is not on the fast track to Goloka. The comments so far have provided plenty of evidence to support the alternative claim that nirjal is not the only way to follow.

        • You are mistaking compassionate education, which involves taking the time to dispassionately explain the import of sastra, for ridicule. And what I have objected to is your dismissal of those who observe anukalpa, referring to it as “unreal” observance and so on, that and your conflating details with principles and citing scripture while ignoring context. All of this is driven by raja guna.

          At any rate, you feel inspired to observe nirjala ekadasi, which is very laudable. I am merely suggesting that you do so without criticism of those who observe this holy day essentially yet differently. If you read over the article and subsequent discussion, you will be well equipped with the scriptural insight and reasoning to do so. However, if rather than taking advantage of my effort to educate and perhaps being humbled by it you choose instead to construe it to be an example of a lack of compassion and thus dismiss it and myself, you do your good self a disservice.

  14. Dear Vaishnavas and Vaishnavis,

    This is a very nice discussion, and article, much appreciated by me and others.

    Srila Prabhupada never took even a drop of water (or food) on Janmashtami or Gour Purnima, until the appointed hour of fast break. He had to rest, as this was in 1968, just after his serious illness.

    However, on Ekadashis, he would laugh and encourage all the devotees to take Ekadashi prasad, and call it “our Ekadashi feast.” During the year or more that I traveled with him (from late 1967 till early 1969) he always took his chosen “Ekadashi feast” and encouraged us all to do the same. Perhaps he may have considered that we were all too “young” for fully fasting, we may speculate on the reasons, however this was the actual pattern.

    His ‘Ekadashi feast” always consisted of the following 5 items: wet potato/cauliflower subhi, sweet potatoes mashed with yogurt, pan-fried peanuts, carrot halava (shredded carrots boiled in milk to a pudding), and fruit salad with sour cream (and sometimes he just liked to have the fruity cream from the fruit salad.) In evening he may take milk, nothing more.

    The importance is to make it the “Lord’s Day.” So however one can do this is the best way to follow Ekadashi. And whatever one’s guru has taught is by all means the best way for any disciple.

    Thank you for your very interesting article and discussion,

    All glories to the Vaishnavas! All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

    Your servant,
    Govinda dasi

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