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The Vow of Ekādaśī

Hawaii: May 13, 2000

You are all observing ekādaśī today. We should surely
observe ekādaśī—strictly avoiding grains, or anything
prepared with any kind of grains, such as wheat, barley, corn,
and so on. If you observe ekādaśī, chant the holy name, hear
hari-kathā in high-class association, always remain with
elevated devotees, and perform any of the nine limbs of bhakti,
you will never fall down.
Sometimes, due to Kali-yuga and māyā, we become weak
and cannot follow; that is why we fall down. In any situation,
we must not forget to chant and remember Kṛṣṇa, and also to
follow ekādaśī. Even if you are weak, try to strictly follow these
principles.
Do you know the reason why waves come and go, and
why on special days—from ekādaśī to Pūrṇimā and ekādaśī to
Amāvasyā—waves are very high? Even if there is no wind,
still, from ekādaśī to the full moon and dark moon, the water increases and there are so many high waves. Why is this? It is
due to the moon. Water and waves increase due to the moon.
The moon comes nearer on those days, and extracts the water.
Similarly there is some water in our stomachs and bodies.
Therefore, if we are not very careful in these five days in every
fifteen, the moon will increase all your diseases. You can see
in hospitals that most people die within these five days.
We have rasa, or water, within us, and wherever there is
liquid, the mood attracts it. Thus, all kinds of diseases
increase. However, if we are very careful by following the

ancient Indian (or Vedic) process of ekādaśī, this can be controlled very easily. How do we do this? By not drinking water and taking grains. If you are weak, and you are taking water or juice but not grains, then you can save yourself. If you are taking any preparation made from grains, it will absorb the water and become saturated with that water. If you put a stone or wood in water, this will not absorb water, whereas if you give any blotting paper or cotton, it will absorb so much that it will remain fully saturated for the entire day. It will not dry, even in the sun. If you drink water but do not take grains, then like a stone, you will not be affected.

However sickness will come. You may even die; so be careful about this.

Here is another analogy to help us understand. The government allows that within each week there is a one- or two-day holiday. Why have they made one or two holidays?

Why not work for all seven days of each week? If you work every day of the seven days, you will be tired and you won’t be able to continue the next day. Similarly, the stomach contains so many worms, which digest what we eat. If you do not give them rest, they are not able to continue digesting and they will become diseased. The whole world is suffering due to not giving the stomach any rest.

Moreover, the most important reason to follow ekādaśī is that ekādaśī is Kṛṣṇa Himself. Kṛṣṇa has become ekādaśī. He descends to this world on ekādaśī day, looks after all the people who are observing its vows, and gives special mercy to them. So we must observe ekādaśī.

Once, on the day of ekādaśī, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu was in Purī with all of His associates like Svarūpa Dāmodara, Rāya Rāmānanda, Nityānanda Prabhu, and thousands of other devotees. They were performing kīrtana throughout the day and night—remembering Kṛṣṇa, hearing hari-kathā, and not sleeping for even a moment. In the meantime, at about 8:00 in the evening, the paṇḍās (priests) of Jagannātha Purī brought a great quantity of delicious, sweet mahā-prasāda and placed it in front of Mahāprabhu and His devotees.

It has been written in the scriptures, like the Purāṇas and others, that when one receives mahā-prasāda he should take it
at once, without a moment’s delay. When Caitanya Mahāprabhu saw the mahā-prasāda, He became so happy. He prayed to that mahā-prasāda in various ways and performed its parikramā throughout the night. He quoted many ślokas from
śāstra, explaining which he said that even the mahā-prasāda taken by hogs, pigs, crows, and dogs is still mahā-prasāda; it is
so powerful. We should not dishonor it; rather, we should take it. Even if it is rotten or dry, or brought from faraway places, we should still honor it.

When it became morning, Mahāprabhu took bath in the sea along with all His associates, and then told them, “Let us now divide this prasāda and then honor it.”

On the day of ekādaśī, we should honor ekādaśī by not taking grains. ekādaśī is the mother of kṛṣṇa- bhakti, love and affection. If you do not follow ekādaśī, kṛṣṇa- bhakti will never come. If you are young and strong, you can fast all day, not taking anything: not fruits, vegetables, juice, or even water. If you are not so strong, or you are sick or old, you can take very few fruits, or juice, or milk. Don’t try to take a large quantity of juice, one or two kilos three or four times a day, or rabrī (a sweet), or other preparations. You can take very little, only to maintain your life. Not sleeping at all during the day, and chanting like Śrīla Haridāsa Ṭhākura. Then the fruit of ekādaśī
will come.

There are so many examples about ekādaśī in the Śrīmad- Bhāgavatam, such as the story of Ambarīṣa Mahārāja. Mahārāja Ambarīṣa was a very powerful king, who was attacked by an agent of Durvāsā Ṛṣi. Durvāsā was not an angry person. He is a manifestation of Maheśvara (Lord Śiva).

He was a high-class devotee. He wanted to glorify bhaktas and ekādaśī, so he played a trick, just as Śaṅkara preached māyāvāda philosophy on the order of Kṛṣṇa. Śaṅkara did this for the welfare of the whole world.

On our own, we cannot understand why the sage Durvāsā did so many apparently cruel things. Actually he is an exalted devotee, always serving and glorifying Kṛṣṇa. He wanted to give some teachings to us conditioned souls. That is why, just before dvādaśī-pāraṇa (the exact time for breaking the ekādaśī fast), he told Mahārāja Ambarīṣa, “I am accepting your invitation to take prasāda here, but first I must take bath in the river and chant my gāyatrī-mantras.” Yamunā was very near, so he went there to take bath and recite prayers, and he intentionally returned late—after the pāraṇa (time for breaking fast) time was over.

We should try to be humble like Ambarīṣa Mahārāja, and very strong in the conclusions of bhakti. He was so humble that for one year he was waiting for when Durvāsā would come back thinking, “I must satisfy him first, and then I can take prasāda.” He was so humble:

tṛṇād api sunīcena taror api sahiṣṇunā
amāninā mānadena kīrtanīyaḥ sadā hariḥ

[“Thinking oneself to be even lower and more worthless than insignificant grass which has been trampled beneath everyone’s feet, being more tolerant than a tree, being prideless, and offering respect to all others according to their respective positions, one should continuously chant the holy name of Śrī Hari.” (Śrī Śikṣāṣṭaka, verse 3)]

We should be more humble than a blade of grass which if trampled upon and never protests. We should be more tolerant than trees, whose bark, wood, fruit, shade, and seeds are all for others. Even if you come to cut down the tree, still it will give you shade, fruits, and wood for chairs, beds, etc. Even if it is drying up and dying, still, it will not ask for water.

We should be more humble than that tree. Try to give honor to all, in accordance with their qualifications in bhakti. Don’t desire your own praise. If you are like this, then when you chant and remember, you will be able to attain kṛṣṇa-prema very easily; otherwise, not.

Ekādaśī is the mother of Kṛṣṇa- Bhakti, love and affection. If you do not follow ekādaśī, Kṛṣṇa- Bhakti will never come.