Shri Shrimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaj
Turnbridge, England: July 9, 1999
You know how delicious Jagannatha prasadam is. The pandas (priests) of Jagannatha's temple brought some prasadam to Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who was performing kirtana with His associates: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.
In general, the pandas and others in Jagannatha Puri don't observe Ekadasi. They think they have 'tightened the legs of Ekadasi-devi and tied her upside down on the branch of a tree' so that no one would have to observe Ekadasi. They say, "This is the glory of mahaprasada, that even on Ekadasi, Janmastami, and Rama Navami, you have no need of special fasting. You can take prasada, and after that you can take betel-nut, and sometimes cigarettes; no harm. And just go on chanting, "Jagannatha, Jagannatha, Jaya Jagannatha."
The pandas considered, "If the Gaudiya bhaktas from Bengal, and Vaisnavas from other parts of India, come here on Ekadasi, then our maha-prasadam will not sell and our business will go down. Also, if all of them are observing Ekadasi and we are not, they will laugh at us."
For these reasons the pandas offered Mahaprabhu Jagannatha's maha-prasadam on Ekadasi. They thought He would be in a dilemma, and would then take it.
What did Mahaprabhu do? He said, "We should not dishonor maha-prasadam, nor should we dishonor Ekadasi." Then, with all His devotees, He began to perform kirtana again, offering prayers and dandavat pranamas to the maha-prasadam from so many Vedas, Upanisads, so many Puranas, and Shrimad-Bhagavatam for the entire night.
Maha-prasada is Himself Krishna:
visvaso naiva jayate
["Those who have very few pious activities to their credit can never develop faith in maha-prasada, in Shri Govinda, in the holy name of the Lord, or in the Vaisnavas." (Skanda Purana)]
Those who are not fortunate cannot honor maha-prasada with the understanding that it is Govinda Himself, as they cannot understand that Krishna has invested all His power, opulence, mercy, and everything in His name. The holy name of Krishna is Krishna Himself, and maha-prasada is Krishna Himself, and the pure Vaisnavas are also non-different from Krishna. There is a special power in them. We should not neglect them.
Mahaprabhu spent His entire night in such glorification. Then, at 4am He went to Svargadvara, to the ocean. There He took bath, then returned to His place and performed acamana, put on tilaka, and did ahnika. Even though He is Krishna Himself, He was doing this. Why was He remembering Krishna? His heart is that of Radhika, so He remembered, "Krishna, Krishna."
After performing His morning duties, He offered pranama and took prasadam, and then He went for darsana of Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra. He did not see Jagannatha, Baladeva, and Subhadra, however. He only saw Vrajendra-nandana. He was just about to faint, but He was caught by Candanesvara, the son of Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya. Sarvabhauma had told his son, "Always go to the Jagannatha temple with Mahaprabhu, and when He is about to faint, you should protect Him from the fall."
We should try to observe Ekadasi in this way – not taking so many times water, juice fruit, milk, and so on. If you are young and healthy, you can go the whole day and night without taking anything, even water. If you cannot do this, then you can take one time in the afternoon or evening. If you are sick or weak, then you can take something small, two times a day, to maintain your life so that you can chant, "Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna."
More concessions have been given for Western devotees because they are weaker in body. Otherwise, they are very strong. I have seen so many Western devotees, especially lady devotees, who fast the entire day and night and not sleeping.
There are so many benefits from observing Ekadasi. In colleges, hospitals and all work places, we see that leave is given for students and workers once a week so they can take rest, and the next day they can work with full energy. Otherwise, they would not be able to continue their activities over the years. They must take some rest.
This is also true regarding our stomach. In our stomach there are some bacteria that are helpful for our health. These bacteria are always working for our digestion, so if they become sick or tired, then you will become sick. We should try and give them rest for one day at least, so that the next day they will work again with great energy.
Secondly, you see that in the ocean, especially from Ekadasi to Purnima, there are very large waves. This is because the moon attracts all the waters of this planet. Wherever there is water, the moon attracts it. In our body there is much water, and especially on Ekadasi day the moon will attract it; if there is any disease, that disease will increase so much. It is best that we check these things, especially grains, corn, wheat, and things made by them.
It has been said that sometimes you can take water, and there is no harm in that. If you put water on a stone, the stone will at once become dry again; all the water will disappear. On the other hand, if you pour water on some cotton or blotting paper, they will soak up the water and take hours to dry.
Preparations made from grains, wheat, rice, corn, and dahl are like cotton in our stomach. The moon attracts that water in them and diseases increase. So many people die in hospitals from Ekadasi to the full moon and Ekadasi to the new moon. To check our diseases, it is very essential to follow Ekadasi.
[From Gurudeva's June 5, 1998 lecture on Ekadasi: 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 lotting-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 – grains hold the water.
Even if you squeeze the cotton, some water will remain. Similarly, if you eat any grain, it 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 become very high.]
These are external reasons, for the body. I have told this for those who are attached to their bodies.
Even persons who do not believe in God should observe Ekadasi. In India, all kinds of devotees follow Ekadasi – Mayavadis (mpersonalists), Saivates (worshippers of Lord Siva), Saktas (worship of Durga-devi), and Ganesh worshippers. Both ladies and males, and children follow, but nowadays everything is finishing. Almost everyone is avoiding Ekadasi, as a very big storm from Western countries went to India and affected everywhere.
In ancient times there was a king named Ambarisa Maharaj, and he was in a dilemma regarding whether or not Ekadasi should be observed fully.
There was a very high class of brahmavadi named Durvasa Muni who could fly in the air, and who could go to Brahmaloka and everywhere else. He could disappear; he could take any form, and whatever he would order would happen. He could curse someone by telling him, "Oh, you should die at once," and that person would die. He was also a very angry person.
Durvasa came to the palace of Ambarisa Maharaj, and Ambarisa Maharaj requested him, "Please take prasadam here today, because it is dvadasi today, paran day." [On dvadasi day, the day following the Ekadasi fast, the fast is broken and the Ekadasi observance is completed, by taking 'paran' at a prescribed exact time. -ed]
Durvasa said, "I will return very soon. I am going very near, to the Yamuna River. I will take bath and do some other things, and then I will return."
He went, and then knowingly delayed and came back late. Before he returned, only a few minutes remained before paran time. Ambarisa Maharaj was thinking, "What shall to do? On one side, if I take paran I will be dishonoring that maha-maha-brahmavadi, and on the other side, if I honor that brahma-jnani I will be dishonoring Ekadasi."
If anyone observes Ekadasi without taking water, but does not take paran in time, then the fruits from Ekadasi go away. Ambarisa Maharaj therefore wondered what to do. At last he decided, "Let the brahmavadi be angry, no harm. He will come and curse me, saying, "You should die." No harm. In my next birth I will again be okay. On the other hand, if I dishonor Ekadasi and do not take paran in the proper time, then my bhakti will go away. I will be dishonoring Krishna Himself, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and I will be ruined forever. If my bhakti leaves, then what will be the use of honoring brahmavadis and doing other things? I should not dishonor bhakti."
He then took caranamrta (the water that bathed his Deity) – without Tulasi, only water – because he had done nirjala, a full fast, on the previous day. If he had not done nirjala, then water would not have been sufficient to observe the paran. He would have had to take some grain or anything similar. Thus, he took only one drop of caranamrta to observe paran.
That Rsi then returned. Knowing (by his trance) that Ambarisa Maharaj had taken the caranamrta, He gave a curse. He took one hair from his dreadlock (matted locks) and told it, "You should become fire." At once that hair became a big and powerful fire demon; Krtya, a Raksasi, or man-eating, demon. The fire demon asked Durvasa, "What I should do?" The Rsi replied, "Oh you should at once burn Ambarisa Maharaj to ashes!" He is inimical to brahma-jnani rsis! He doesn't know how to honor me!" Krtya attacked at once, but Krishna's Sudarsana Cakra (Krishna's ultimate disc-weapon) was there, always protecting devotees.
We have no faith in Krishna's protection – or perhaps just a little, a shadow. We do not really believe that Krishna will come, and Cakra will come, and save us. Sudarsana is always here and there. He never destroys anyone; rather he gives su-darsana, a light by which you can see Krishna. He is always saving devotees everywhere, because he can go everywhere.
He was watching and observing Durvasa Rsi and Ambarisa Maharaj. He came at once. In a moment he burnt that very big fire-demoness and began to pursue Durvasa Rsi.
Why was he following Durvasa? He can fly faster than Durvasa, so why did he not catch and destroy him? Why did he only continue chasing him? This is because Durvasa Muni was actually Sankara, and Sankara is a bhakta. The apparently demonic behavior of Durvasa Muni was only to glorify Ambarisa Maharaj. Durvasa is actually a high class of devotee. He is Sankara. Chakra was following only to make a show, to make a pastime in order to glorify Ambarisa Maharaj and Ekadasi. Otherwise, even Sankara cannot escape Sudarsana Cakra. He could have been burnt. But Sankara is a manifestation of Krishna; in Brahmaloka he is Sadasiva, Vishnu-tattva. Knowing this Sudarsana Cakra only chased him.
Durvasa Rsi went first to the planet of his father, Brahma, who refused to help him. He then went to the planet o fLord Siva, but Siva (Sankara) also refused. And finally he approached Lord Vishnu, who refused and told him, "I am not independent. I am dependent on My bhaktas."
If someone gets a thorn in his foot, that thorn cannot be removed from his head; it must be removed from his foot. Vishnu told him, "Bhaktas are My feet; they are My heart. I cannot save you. Go back to Ambarisa Maharaj, and if he accepts and forgives you, then okay."
Durvasa Rsi immediately returned to Earth, to the palace of Ambarisa Maharaj. He fell flat at the feet of Ambarisa Maharaj and begin to pray "Oh, please forgive me." Ambarisa replied, "You should forgive me. It was because of me that Sudarsana Cakra chased you everywhere and made you suffer. First, take prasadam; then we will discuss whatever you like." Maharaj Ambarisa then served delicious prasadam to Durvasa Rsi, who saw the glory of Ambarish Maharaj.
aho ananta-dasanam mahattvam drstam adya me
krtagaso 'pi yad rajan mangalani samihase
["My dear king, today I have experienced the greatness of a Vaisnava, for although I have committed a grievous offence by trying to kill you, you have prayed for my protection and well being." (Shrimad-Bhagavatam, 9.4.68)]
Durvasa Rsi said, "Oh, today I have seen how glorious are the Vaisnavas. So, today I must observe Ekadasi to become a devotee like you."
If you want to become a devotee like Ambarisa Maharaj, or like the parents of Krishna, Nanda and Yasoda, then you must follow Ekadasi. Nanda and Yasoda followed Ekadasi in Vrindavana, and from Vrindavana they came to Ambika-kanana near Mathura and followed there. If they were doing this, why should we not? We must observe Ekadasi, and with care. Then, bhakti will come to us automatically.
We must follow Ekadasi under the guidance of pure Vaisnavas, and also perform kirtana under such guidance. If you are doing bhakti, that is okay. But if he is under the guidance of a devotee who has relation with Vraja, who has Vraja-bhakti, who is rasika, knowing all tattvas, that pure devotee can remove all doubts and can put Radha, Krishna, and Mahaprabhu in your heart. Under the guidance of this calibre of Vaisnava, be always in Vrindavana, and always chant and remember. Both at the same time, chant the holy name of Krishna and remember the pastimes related to that name.
For example, if you are singing, "Govinda Damodara Madhaveti, Govinda Damodara Madhaveti," you can remember the pastimes of Govinda. When there was torrential rains sent by the demigod Indra, Krishna held up Giriraja Mountain for seven days to protect the residents of Vrindavana. After seven days, Indra realized that he had committed a great offence at Krishna's lotus feet. He came to Krishna with his elephant and Saurabhi cow. He performed Krishna's abhiseka (a sacred bathing ceremony), and then told Him, "O, You are the protector of go – the cows, gopas – the cowherd men and boys, gopis – the cowherd women and girls, govatsa – the calves, the land, and all the other residents of Gokula So, Your name is appropriately 'Govinda.'" You can remember this pastime, for example.
You can also remember the pastimes of Damodara. You can remember the pastime of Yasoda binding Krishna and Krishna weeping, "Mother, Mother, don't beat Me."
Once, Shrimati Radhika and the gopis were there sitting with Krishna. Lalita took the corner of Shrimati Radhika's veil and a corner of Krishna's pitambara, and tied the two corners together. Then, all the gopis began to sing the kirtanas of marriage, and Visakha became the priest. When Radhika realized what was happening She started to run away, but Krishna was bound to Her. The gopis bound Krishna so He could not leave Shrimati Radhika, He would always be with Her. In this way, he is Radha- Damodara.
We remember Radha-Damodara. Shrila Rupa Gosvami established the Deity of Radha-Damodara, not Yasoda-Damodara. Yasoda-Damodara is only a part of Radha Damodara. We should remember and chant like this, and always being in Vrindavana, thinking, "We are in Vrindavana with Vrajavasis."
Also, when you are chanting:
jayatam suratau pangor mama manda-mater gati
["All glories to the all-merciful Shri Radha-Madana-Mohana! Although I am lame, foolish and devoid of intelligence, Your lotus feet are my refuge and my everything!" (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi-lila, 1.15)]
presthalibhih sevyamanau smarami
["I meditate upon Shri Shri Radha-Govinda-deva, who are seated beneath a kalpa-vrksa tree on an effulgent bejeweled sinhasana in the supremely beautiful land of Vrindavana, where They are always being served by Their beloved sakhis, headed by Lalita and Visakha.This Govinda, this pastime surrounded by all the gopis." (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi-lila, 1.16)
...You can remember the pastimes of Krishna surrounded by all the gopis.
And when you chant this verse (below), you can remember Krishna as Gopinatha under this shade of Vamsivata.
Shriman rasa-rasarambhi vamsivata-tata-sthitah
karsan venu-svanair gopir gopinathah Shriye'stu nah
["Shri Gopinatha, who originated the transcendental mellow of the rasa dance, always stands beneath the Vamsi-vata tree, attracting all the kisori-gopis with the sound of His flute, thereby showering me with auspiciousness." (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi-lila, 1.17)]
Thinking that we are in Seva-Kunja, or that we are under the shade of Vamsivata, especially under the guidance of Shrila Rupa Gosvami, and chanting and remembering, our Ekadasi will then be observed well.
Syamarani dasi: Gurudeva, we always hear that we should not take grains on Ekadasi because sins are stored in them on that day, but why can we not take certain vegetables, like tomato and loki?
Shrila Narayana Gosvami Maharaj: It is not like with grains. They do not have the qualities of grain, corn, wheat, and dahl [in that they don't act like a blotter paper of a ball of cotton]. Especially it has been told, by a special story, that on the very day of Ekadasi, all sins, including brahma-hatya (the killing of a brahmana), matri-hatya (the killing of one's mother), go-hatya (the killing of a cow) take shelter in grains and the things prepared by grains. And in addition sastra prohibits taking certain vegatables and other foodstuffs. *[see endnotes 1 and 2]
A concession has been made for the Western devotees and in India for weak persons. If you are not observing the rules and prohibitions, then all kinds of sin will come to you; and if you have some bhakti, it will be destroyed.
Weak persons can take something, as they like, but it must be within the foodstuffs allowed for Ekadasi. Children can also take as they like, but their mother and father should take care that they only take fruits and other foods allotted for Ekadasi.
In evening class, we will discuss how we can develop our Krishna consciousness; how we can follow Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and the teachings of Rupa and Raghunatha. We are only here for one day, so what can I tell? If we would be here for seven days, or ten days, as we are in other cities, then we could speak on one subject as a theme. No harm, though; I think that all are inspired by hearing this topic today.
My request is: don't be weak, have great faith in your Guru, in your siksa-guru, in devotees, and in the pure Name. If you have no taste, then again and again continue to chant, because the Name is Krishna Himself. It will give you darsana of Krishna. Krishna is coming to you in the shape of Ekadasi, in the shape of His Name, but you are thinking, "Oh, it is enough to chant in any way: 'lahstom pahstum;' one round, two rounds; and without attention. Don't be like this. Krishna, His Name, and Ekadasi can fulfill all our desires, and can even give vraja-prema.
Wealth cannot save us or solve our problems. But this can fulfil all kinds of desires and solve all kinds of problems. Have a very strong belief in the Name, and observe Ekadasi, Janamastami, Rama-Navami, Nrsinha Caturdasi, Mahaprabhu's Birthday; and especially try to honor devotees. Don't neglect devotees by mind or by heart. Don't have any enemies.
[Endnote 1: Scriptures like Hari-bhakti-vilasa state that such foodstuffs create changes in the body and consciousness that are detrimental to the observance of Ekadasi. (Shripad BV Tirtha Maharaj)]
[Endnote 2: Sinful reactions don't take shelter in foodstuffs other than grains and beans. Scriptures like Manu-samhita and Manu-smiti state that certain foodstuffs are prohibited on Ekadasi because they change their qualities on that day, and thus their ingestion creates disturbances in the consciousness. (Shripad BV Madhava ]
Restricted foods on Ekadasi:
· Tomatoes, eggplants, cauliflower, broccoli, bell pepper, beets, bitter melon (karela), loki, parmal, toroi, kunli, drumsticks, bindi (lady fingers), banana flower.
· Peas, chickpeas and all types of beans, including products made from beans [papadams, tofu, tempeh, etc.]
· All leafy vegetables: spinach, salads, cabbages, etc., and leafy herbs like parsley, coriander leaves, celery, curry leaves, etc.
· Grains: millet, barley, farina, pasta, rice, corn, etc. all types of flour made from grains and beans (like rice flour, chickpea flour, urad dahl flour, etc.)
· Starches from corn or grains, and products made from and mixed with these starches like: baking soda, baking powder, certain soft drinks with corn syrup, custard, certain yogurts, puddings, certain cream & cottage cheeses, certain sweets, candies, tapioca balls, etc.
· Oils made from grains: corn oil, mustard oil, sesame oil, etc., and products fried in these oils: nuts, potato chips and other snack foods.
· Honey and sweets made with starches.
Spices used on Ekadasi: black pepper, fresh ginger, pure salt and fresh turmeric, all taken from a new and clean package.
Spices not used on Ekadasi: hing (asafetida), sesame seeds, cumin, fenugreek, mustard, tamarind, fennel, cardamom, nutmeg, etc.
Foods that can be taken on Ekadasi
· All fruits (fresh and dried), all nuts and oils made from nuts.
· Potatoes, pumpkin, cucumber, radish, squash, lemon, avocado, olives, coconut, buckwheat, all sugars.
· All pure milk products (except yoghurt during the 2nd month of Caturmasya and milk during the 3rd month)