Upavasa: Residing Closer to the Lord

Chaitanya-Mahabrabhu-at-JagannathBy Swami B.V. Tripurari

Upavasa means to fast. Vasa may mean to reside and upa means nearby. So upavasa means “to reside nearby.” So the main principle of Ekadasi is to reside near the Lord. It is not about fasting; it is about coming closer to the Lord. This is the actual heart of the idea. In fact, every day we should come closer to the Lord but two days have been singled out to emphasize the point. So we can call it Hari’s day and everyone will be told to do certain observances. But the purpose is to reside closer to the Lord, to come near to him. And when we do it we find it is nice, and then we may end up doing it every day. That is the real idea.

In the Christian faith they make Sunday the Lord’s Day. Every day actually is the Lord’s day, but they select one day so that at least on that one day everyone will observe. So this is the principle, to come near to the Lord. Our Ekadasi observance should revolve around that. In other words, if fasting is only making me go to sleep, if fasting is only making me proud, what is the value of that? Will I be brought nearer to the Lord by that?

Ekadasi was very important to Caitanya Mahaprabhu. One day in his childhood he approached his mother and asked, “Mother, please do one thing for me?” She said, “Yes, Nimai, whatever you like.” He said, “Please don’t eat grains on Ekadasi.” At that time in Bengal only widows were thought to have to follow Ekadasi and women who were married and had families and husbands, they didn’t. Ekadasi was looked at as a punishment. If you’re a bad person, then you have to fast on Ekadasi. They thought widows were unfortunate people, with bad karma, inauspicious. So if your life was inauspicious, only then did you need to follow Ekadasi. But Mahaprabhu said something quite different. So immediately, from that day on, Sacidevi began to observe Ekadasi.

Later on, in Jagannatha Puri, the devotees of Mahaprabhu had a dilemma about observing Ekadasi. Because in Jagannath Puri there is so much prasad, 54 offerings daily and taking Jagannath prasad is very auspicious. So, if Ekadasi means fasting, how can we not honor the prasad of Lord Jagannatha? This question was put to Caitanya Mahaprabhu and he gave his opinion; “We shall observe Ekadasi and we shall honor Jagannath prasad. When Jagannath prasad comes, we will pay our dandavats to it. In this way, prasad will be honored and we will continue to observe the upavasa at the same time.”

So Mahaprabhu emphasized this point a great deal. Even raganuga bhaktas should observe Ekadasi. It is favorable, it is anukula for raganuga bhajan. We should not think that raganuga means we don’t need to follow all of the regulations.

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5 Responses to Upavasa: Residing Closer to the Lord

  1. In the Cc. 1.15.8-10, the text of Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja Gosvāmī is beautifully intimate: a tender mother talks fondly to her youngest son, aged 5-10 years old (paugaṇḍa). This homelike context marks the global resurgence of ekādaśī opened by Nimāi. But since Śacīdevī and Jagannātha Miśra, Sītā Ṭhākurāṇī and Advaita Ācārya, the early Vaiṣṇava community and many women and brāhmaṇas of Navadvīpa had already exhibited a paternal feeling for Nimāi, does this mean that vātsalya-rasa could be developed spontaneously without strictly attending ekādaśī celebrations?

    Furthermore, according to Cc 1.14.23 and 1.14.40-42, sakhya-rasa could be developed from early childhood (bālya) without paying too much attention to ekādaśī? And further, according to Cc 1.14.48-61 and 1.14.63-70, is it also possible that certain features of mādhurya-rasa have been developed from this same age without firmly attending ekādaśī?

    • The devotees you mention are nitya parikaras of Bhagavan. The relationships they have with Gaura are not the Gaura-lila relationships offered to the world. That relationship is dasya-bhava for Gaurasundara and it comes through the sampradaya he formed. Under his inspiration, the architects of the sampradaya established the need to observe ekadasi in both vaidhi and raga marg.

  2. Dhanyavāda.

    Then the Gaura-līlā relationships offered to the world begins with śānta-bhāva and extends only within defined limits of dāsya-bhāva? What are the exact boundaries of sādhaka-bhūmi? How is it possible to develop the subtle feelings of viśrambha if the energizing sap of sakhya-bhāva does not sustain the gauḍīya sampradāya’s vitality? If ekādaśī is upavasa, that means more proximity; and more proximity is greater intimacy.

    • Gaura is Krsna in his acarya-lila, thus the appropriate relationship with him is in dasya bhava as exhibited by the Six Goswamis.This dasya bhava is tinged with sakhya like the dasya bhava of Gokula for Gokulacandra. Dasya bhava for Garua leads to sakhya or madhurya bhava for Krsna. Worship in Nadiya (eternally) live in Vraja (eternally). That is the teaching

  3. I accept the teaching. When an ācārya say to his kiṅkaras: tumi-saba bandhu mora, that is a spiritually very deep tinge. And when Gaurasundara says to Rūpa Gosvāmī before embracing him: ’gūḍha mora hṛdaya tuñi jānilā kemane’, that is a very much greater deep tinge. Who can recognize and appreciate the true value of an aktu of sakhya-bhāva?


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