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Nirjala Ekadashi and other topics

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say_jai_radhe.jpgShri Shrimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaj

[Shrila Gurudeva replies to several good questions regarding the observance of Nirjala Ekadashi on his morning walk in Badger, California, June 24, 2007.]

Balarama das: May I ask you a question, Gurudeva? Tomorrow is Nirjala Ekadashi (full fasting, even from water). If there were defects in our following any Ekadashis during the year, how can we properly observe Nirjala Ekadashi to nullify the reactions to these defects?

Shrila Gurudeva: We should try to follow all Ekadashis. If there was a defect in your observance of any previous Ekadashi, simply continue practicing. By chanting harinama, everything will be okay.

Balarama das: Should one clean one's teeth on Nirjala Ekadashi?

Shrila Gurudeva: Why not? Should you not take bath?

Balarama das: Bath is not drunk.

Shrila Gurudeva: Still, some of the water somehow enters the body.

Of course, you must bathe, but do not take caranamrta [the Deities' bath water] on that day; simply offer pranama to the caranamrta.

Balarama das: What about acamana?

Shrila Gurudeva: Just touch the water to your lips.

Vrindavan das: When a devotee does acamana, the water is supposed to go to his heart. It says in Hari-bhakti-vilasa that the proper way to do acamana is like this (demonstrates) – like a chicken.

Shrila Gurudeva: I have not seen this in that scripture, or any other scripture.

Vrindavan das: It also says that when you take acamana, it has to come into the body and purify the heart.

Shrila Gurudeva: You can take acamana in that way on other days, but not on Ekadashi.

Shripad Nemi Maharaja: Actually, if we have somehow failed to observe other Ekadashis, will the observation of Pandava Nirjala Ekadashi compensate?

Shrila Gurudeva: I have just answered this question. You can compensate only by harinama – not by properly following Nirjala Ekadashis. You will have to follow every Ekadashi. Only for Bhima was a concession given; only for him.

Vrindavan das: We have always understood that if someone does not observe the other Ekadashis throughout the year, if he very strictly follows Pandava Nirjala Ekadashi, then he won't get a bad reaction for not having followed all the other Ekadashis. Is this not true?

Shripad Madhava Maharaja: It is not true at all.

Vrindavan das: But we always thought this. Everyone thought this.

Nrhari das: Gurudeva, it is also stated in Krishna-Balarama Svami's book – the book you told us not to read.

Shrila Gurudeva: This is wrong information. ISKCON [the disciples of Shrila Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja, but not Shrila Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja personally] has manufactured this.

Vrindavan das: Those devotees consider that they are getting some concession because of Bhima.

Shrila Gurudeva: They are not Bhima.

From ancient times up to the time of the Six Gosvamis, devotees used to observe all Ekadashis as Nirjala Ekadashi, without taking even water. Ambarisa Maharaja observed each Ekadashi for three days: on the first day he controlled his eating; on the second day he avoided eating and drinking (Nirjala) altogether; and on the third day he ate only once.

Shripad Madhava Maharaja: The Pandavas used to observe Nirjala Ekadashi on every Ekadashi. Once, Bhima told Krishna, "It is not possible for me to fully fast every time. Krishna replied, "On all other Ekadashis you can take fruits and roots, but you must follow Nirjala on this particular Ekadashi." Bhima was thus permitted to follow Nirjala on only one day of the year, but he had to properly observe all the other Ekadashis as well. This day is therefore called Pandava Nirjala Ekadashi.

Shrila Gurudeva: In India, every Ekadashi is generally observed without food or water. Shrila Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja saw that the Western devotees were somewhat lacking in their ability to perform austerity, so he introduced a concession for them. He said that they could take anukalpa (eating a little, just to maintain one's strength) three times in the day. However, instead of following anukalpa, they were in the habit of taking 'brhat'-kalpa, eating and drinking as much as they could take as long as it was grain-free. Do you understand? This is not good.

Brajanath das: They say that if they do not eat sufficiently, they will not have any strength or power.

Shrila Gurudeva: That is a bogus statement. That was the argument of Mohini.

Devotee: Gurudeva, Shrila Prabhupada said that Krishna will fulfill a devotee's desire only to the degree that the devotee desires. How can we increase our desire for preaching?

Shrila Gurudeva: You can do so by following our parampara – Shri Narada, Shrila Vyasadeva, Shrila Sukadeva Gosvami, the Six Gosvamis, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and all of Mahaprabhu's followers – who have personally performed bhajana. Like them, first become qualified by properly following, and then you can teach and preach. If you are not personally following and are therefore not realizing anything, then what can you preach?

yare dekha, tare kaha 'krsna'-upadesa
amara ajnaya guru hana tara' ei desa

Instruct everyone to follow the orders of Lord Shri Krsëa as they are given in the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam. In this way become a spiritual master and try to liberate everyone in this land.

By first knowing all siddhanta, all philosophical conclusions, our preaching will be successful. It is important for us to consider that preaching is also bhajana, so we must preach.

Preaching means to help others. In Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna told Arjuna, "This confidential knowledge may never be explained to those who are not austere, or devoted, or engaged in devotional service, nor to one who is envious of Me" (Bhagavad-gita 18.67).] In the chapters of the Bhagavatam called Uddhava-samvad, Krishna told Uddhava, "Do not repeat what I am telling you to those who are not qualified with strong faith." Shrila Sanatana Gosvami in his Brhad-bhagavatamrta and Shrila Jiva Gosvami in his Sat-sandarbha have written that those who have no sraddha, or faith, should not read their books.

We can read and hear if we have sraddha. If we consider that we will have enormous transcendental gain from such reading or hearing, this means we have sraddha.

Prana Govinda das: It is seen that Dhrtarastra did not have very much sraddha, but Sanjaya still told him what was taking place on the battlefield of Kuruksetra.

Shrila Gurudeva: Shri Krishna allowed that. And finally, after the war, Vidura inspired Dhrtarastra to give up his kingdom and relatives and go to the forest in Haridvara. There, Dhrtarastra's body burned to ashes in a mystic fire.

At the beginning of the war, Sanjaya had told Dhrtarastra that, through him, Shrila Vyasadeva would allow Dhrtarastra to 'see' the events taking place on the battlefield. Vyasadeva permitted this because he had considered, "Dhrtarastra is a blind person. One day his eyes should opened. He should see that all his sons – whom he loved so much and to whom he had shown partiality in the tension between the Pandavas and Kauravas – have died."

(To Yasodananda das) It is for giving you this knowledge that I am attracting you.

Yasodananda das: I feel very attracted, Shrila Gurudeva.

Shrila Gurudeva: Somehow you are very lucky; your 'everything' is engaged in Krishna's service.

Madhuvrata das: Shrila Gurudeva, you mentioned in Malaysia to Giri Maharaja on the morning walk that there are five symptoms of successful preaching.

Shrila Gurudeva: I asked Giri Maharaja, "Why have you shaved your face? No other brahmacari or sannyasi has done this." He said that he shaved for preaching. Then I said, "We have not shaven, but who is preaching more? You, or us?" He admitted, "You and all other sannyasis are preaching more than I am." Then I said, "If you shave in the future, I will reject you."

I asked him, "What have you done in the way of successful preaching?" He said, "Nothing." I told him, "You preach, but no one is coming to take harinama; so what is the value of your preaching? And how much pranami have you handed in to me?" He said, "Nothing." I then replied, "So what is your motive for preaching, and why have you shaved?"

If one is preaching but those to whom he is preaching are not inspired to take the shelter of guru and accept initiation, then his preaching is like zero. The success of one's preaching depends on how much he inspires others to take harinama and thus make their lives successful. That person's preaching is effective. Also, Vaisnavas do not want money, but still it will come. Money for Krishna's service will follow him. ['Money' means that the results of people's energy will be offered in Krishna's service.]

Shripad Nemi Maharaja: Some devotees think that there is no need for them to preach at this time because they are not yet advanced. They think, "First we will read and chant. Then, when we become advanced, we will preach."

Shrila Gurudeva: They should enjoy the world, and then return to the world. They should take birth after birth; they should suffer the pains of birth and death.

Shripad Nemi Maharaja: I see that you don't accept their idea.

Yasodananda das: Shrila Gurudeva, how can we help fulfill Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura's mission to make Krishna consciousness the worldwide religion?

Shrila Gurudeva: Shrila Prabhupada Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura did this; and after him, Shrila Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja preached everywhere. Now I am taking Shrila Bhaktivedanta Svami Maharaja's remnants – I am accepting whatever he has left for me and continuing his mission.

Spanish Devotee: Gurudeva, one of Shrila Prabhupada's disciples, Jayapataka Svami, claims to have about 60,000 disciples. Do we consider this to be a symptom of successful preaching?

Shrila Gurudeva: He himself does not chant, and he is not established in bhakti. What to speak of him, in India there is a person by the name of Hasaram Vapu, and he gives diksa by phone to thousands of people at a time. He has more disciples than Jayapataka Svami. Do you know Krpalu Maharaja? He is now is jail. He has millions of disciples.

What is the teaching in the story we told about the male pigeon and female pigeon? I request Mahibharata prabhu to explain. What is the teaching behind this story? [*See Endnote]

Mahibharata das: The teaching behind this story is that one should not become attached to one's wife and family – and to not even marry and enter family life. Simply follow Shri Gurudeva.

Shrila Gurudeva: The male pigeon was very attached to his wife, so much so that he considered he could not survive without her. Then, when children came, he became still more attached. What became of that husband and wife? Due to their 'love' for each other, both were killed by a hunter. Death had been waiting for them, but they could not see it.

This story teaches that if you are attached to the opposite gender, your bhakti will be spoiled. You will be worse than dead. Death is not bad. 'Worse than dead' means that you will undergo spiritual death; you will be diverted from bhakti. Always remember this instruction.

If you hear and repeat this story of the pigeons but you are not realizing the magnitude of its implications, and instead you marry again and again, maintaining a sense of strong relationship with your spouse and children, your so-called practice of bhakti will come to nothing.

Devotee: (inaudible)

Shripad Padmanabha Maharaja: He is saying that although sannyasa, or renunciation, is encouraged, in practical life we see that householders are more steady. They remain in household life, and...

Shrila Gurudeva: Your realization is like zero; and because you are a conditioned soul, what you say may be wrong. We follow the realization of high-class bhaktas.

Nirguna das: Last night I read in one of Shrila Prabhupada's books that the self-realized souls find it quite hilarious that the conditioned souls want to marry, because in actuality we are all female .

Shrila Gurudeva: I also say this. They are not realizing that they are all female.

Shripad Padmanabha Maharaja: We see many cases of god-brothers, older devotees, who have been married once or twice and are now reaching the age of fifty or fifty-five years. They say that they should again have a partner.

Shrila Gurudeva: They must take care to avoid this.

Shripad Padmanabha Maharaja: They say that they want to have a companion. They don't want to have the sex-life or children, but they want a companion.

Shrila Gurudeva: They are speaking lies. They have so much lust and other contaminations in their hearts. Why do they not want guru companions, or high-class Vaisnava companions? This should be considered.

Gokula das: Gurudeva, I am dying.

Shrila Gurudeva: Why?

Gokula das: It's natural that I am attached to my wife. Being a conditioned soul, I cannot stop this.

Shrila Gurudeva: Remain with your wife, but don't be attached. Moreover, regarding those who are not married, they should be careful to avoid becoming entangled in sense gratification.

Gokula das: But this attachment is natural because I am conditioned.

Shrila Gurudeva: It is not natural. We have seen that Maharaja Janaka, Shrivasa Pandita, and others like them remained with their families, but they were not attached. They supported their families out of a sense of duty, and they didn't consider, "I cannot survive without my wife."

Shripad Padmanabha Maharaja: Many of Shrila Prabhupada's disciples have been following you for some years, and they feel so much help and inspiration from your association. We want everyone to have a chance to hear what they are feeling, so we want to record them speaking about their spiritual lives – how they have been helped by you in their relationship with our Shrila Prabhupada as well as in their relationship with you. Is this good?

Shrila Gurudeva: This is good.

Dhira-krsna das: Was there any formal diksa initiation in Satya-yuga?

Shrila Gurudeva: Why not? Brahma took initiation from Krishna, and Narada took initiation from Brahma.

Dhira-krsna das: That was bhagavati-diksa.

Shrila Gurudeva: Still, they received diksa, as Vyasadeva received diksa from Narada. First of all, you must know the meaning of diksa.

Dhira-krsna das: "Divyam jnanam yato dadyat. [Diksa is the process by which one can awaken his transcendental knowledge and vanquish all reactions caused by sinful activity. (Shri Chaitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila 15.108)."

Shrila Gurudeva: Does diksa refer only to that diksa-mantra? What do you understand by the word diksa?

Dhira-krsna das: They will establish their relationship with Shri Krishna.

Shrila Gurudeva: Do you understand?

Brajanath das: Yes. Real diksa occurs when we have taken complete shelter of sadhu-sanga and sad-guru, and when we receive nourishment from them.

Shrila Gurudeva: Diksa is not completed by merely receiving the mantra. When the devotee has realization of his relationship with Krishna, that is diksa. Brahma received kama-gayatri initiation by hearing the sound of Shri Krishna's flute.

Vrindavan das: Shrila Gurudeva, does it mean, then, that unless we have realization of our svarupa (constitutional form), our siddha-deha (spiritual body), we have not completed the diksa process?

Shrila Gurudeva: It is essential to know all tattvas, or fundamental philosophical truths, and to be established in those tattvas. We should know our relationship with Krishna and our duty towards Him, and we should be established in that. This is real diksa.

By accepting mantra-diksa (avidvat-ruddhi vrtti, or anusthaniki-diksa), [*See Endnote 2] you are merely entering the course of diksa. A child admitted in a school is a student, and a PhD is also a student; but there is so much difference between the two. Similarly, avidvat-rudhi (anusthaniki) diksa is also diksa, but it is only the entrance to its cultivation. Vidvat-ruddhi is real diksa.

Shripad Padmanabha Maharaja: Shrila Gurudeva, I have a question regarding raganuga-bhakti. Shri Chaitanya-caritamrta says: "Raga-marga bhakti loke karite pracarana (Shri Chaitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila 4, 15-16), meaning that Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu came to preach raga-marga (raganuga) bhakti. You have also said many times that Mahaprabhu did not come to preach vaidhi-bhakti. Vaidhi-bhakti had already been preached by other acaryas in other ages. Mahaprabhu has come to give raga-marga bhakti, and all of our acaryas in the line of Shrila Rupa Gosvami are also giving it.

When a rupanuga-acarya is teaching vaidhi-bhakti to the beginner student, as Rupa Gosvami taught it, is there a difference between that vaidhi-bhakti and the vaidhi-bhakti which was previously followed and preached?

Shrila Gurudeva: The vaidhi-bhakti preached by Ramanujacarya, Nimbaditya, and Madhavacarya is different from the vaidhi-bhakti preached by Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Shrila Rupa Gosvami. One who follows the principles of vaidhi-bhakti as taught by Mahaprabhu is considered to be in the beginning stage of raganuga-bhakti. If one hears Sanatana-siksa, Rupa-siksa, and Raya Ramananda Samvada from Shri Chaitanya-caritamrta, his vaidhi-bhakti will turn into raganuga-bhakti.

Shripad Padmanabha Maharaja: You have told us that actual raganuga-sadhana-bhakti can be performed only by one who is at least at the stage of asakti.

Shrila Gurudeva: When you have a real desire for perfection– real, not artificial – at that time bhakti is at the stage of asakti (spontaneous attachment).

Giridhari das: Shrila Gurudeva, is the harinama-guru considered to be the mantra-guru?

Shrila Gurudeva: He is guru. Also, if that harinama guru is fully qualified but he has passed away from this world before giving diksa to his disciple, then his disciple will take diksa from a guru who is equal to him in bhakti. The diksa-guru should be equal to the bona fide harinama guru, and in the same line of mood and philosophical conception.

[*Endnote 1: "There is a narration found in the eleventh canto of Shrimad Bhagavatam which discusses a pair of pigeons who had many babies. One day the pigeon parents went to the forest to collect some food for their children and themselves. While in the forest they sat on a branch of a tree, under which there was very green grass. They were remembering their marriage ceremony and other amorous pastimes, and they were very happily kissing each other with their beaks.

"Just then, the she-pigeon saw several grains of pearl-like rice on the grass, and she said, 'Oh, my beloved, let us go and pick up these grains of rice.'

"The male pigeon replied, 'There is no businessman or farmer around. From where has this rice come? Don't go. It is someone's trap. A hunter will capture you in his trap.' The she-pigeon said, 'I think you're wrong,' and flew down and began to pick up the grains of rice.

"At that moment, lurking behind a tree was a hunter, very tall and fearsome. The hunter pulled a string, and the female pigeon became entrapped in a net that fell down upon her.

"As the female pigeon now began to weep bitterly, the male pigeon exclaimed, 'My wife has been caught in the hunter's trap! He will kill her!' Very worried, he flew near to that trap, weeping. He began to consider, 'God is very cruel. Why am I not dead in that trap, with my wife outside? My wife can support our children, but I cannot.'

"While the father pigeon was fully absorbed in weeping, the hunter, from behind the tree, took up his bow and arrow, and killed him. Clapping, that hunter then came and took the dead body of the male pigeon, pulled the she-pigeon out from under the net, tied their legs together, and carried them to his home. And what did he do there? He cooked them with some vegetables, and then ate them." (Lecture by Shrila Gurudeva, June 4, 2009, in Brighton, England)]

[*Endnote 2: "There are two kinds of disciples, and therefore there are two kinds of diksa (initiation): anusöhaniki and vidvat-rüòhi. Anusöhaniki-diksa is the external formality of a fire yajïa and the giving of diksa (gayatri) mantras. If one thinks, "I have sacrificed so much, my head is shaven, and I have received my mantras; I now have diksa," this is external. Of course formal initiation is essential, but it is not complete without vidvat-rüòhi.

"Vidvat-rudhi refers to an internal initiation wherein the disciple completely offers his heart at his guru's lotus feet, knowing that his guru will make him qualified to serve Shri Shri Radha and Krsëa. Gurudeva gives all kinds of divya-jïana (realization of transcendental knowledge) about krsna-tattva, guru-tattva, vaisëava-tattva, and prema-tattva." (Pinnacle of Devotion, chapter entitled "The Glories of Sadhu-Sanga" by Shrila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja)]

[*Endnote 3: "Then Gayatri, mother of the Vedas, being imparted by the divine sound of Shri Krishna's flute, entered into the lotus mouths of Brahma, who was born from himself, through his eight ear-holes. Having received the Gayatri sprung from the flute-song of Shri Krishna, the lotus-born Brahma attained the status of the twice-born, having been initiated by the supreme primal preceptor, Godhead Himself. (Shri Brahma-samhita 5.27)]

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