Introduction

By studying the glories of the Ekadashi the faith of the persons who are observing the vows of Ekadashi will be strengthened. Moreover persons who are inquisitive about the subject matter of this book will also obtain the light of knowledge from this book.

Shri Ekadashi which falls on the eleventh day of each waxing and waning moon, is very dear to Lord Hari. That is why this day is also known as Haribasara. A proper and elaborate explanation about Ekadashi is given in Shri Hari Bhakti Vilas. In fact one should observe Ekadashi only to please the supreme lord. It is stated in the scriptures

ekadashi vratam nama
sarva kama phala pradam
kartabyam sarvada viprair
vishnu prinana karanam’

‘The brahamins should always observe Ekadashi to please Lord Vishnu for this fulfills all once desire’. Therefore one will have to observe the vow of Ekadashi for the sake of satisfying the lord. The happiness and prosperity will automatically follow. It is stated in Brihat Naradiya Purana that if everyone including the brahmins, the kshatriyas, the vaisyas, the sudras and the women observe Ekadashi then they will certainly attain liberation. Although various temporary results are found in the scriptures for following the vow of Ekadashi which is one of the limbs of regulative devotional service. Nevertheless one should know the principle fruit of devotional service is to develop  intense love for the supreme lord. Even if the four objectives of life namely religiousity, economic development, sense gratification and liberation automatically follow the performer still the unalloyed pure devotees do not fall prey to this, rather they abandon these objectives and achieve love of God which is the fifth objective of life.

 

Ekadashi in Kaliyuga

Since the living entities of Kaliyuga are short lived and lusty, they are unable to perform severe austerity. The living entities of Kaliyuga subsist on food grain. They cannot survive without eating grains. People of Satya, Treta and Dvaparayugas were capable of undergoing severe austerity and tolerate physical distresses. That is why a minimum austerity in the form of fasting twice a month on the days of Ekadashi has been prescribed for the people of Kaliyuga. If they are able they should eat only once the day before Ekadashi, fast totally on the day of Ekadashi  and eat only once the day after Ekadashi. If one is unable to follow even this, in other words if one is unable to eat only once on the day before and after Ekadashi, than he must observe complete fast on the day of Ekadashi. If one is still unable to follow this then he should give up eating five types of grains and observe the vow of Ekadashi simply by partaking some fruits and roots. It is stated in Mahabharat Udyog Parva quoted in Hari Bhakti Vilas 12/40 as follows.

astai tanyavrataghnani
apo mulam phalam payah
havir brahamana kamya ca
guror vacanam ausadham’

Water, fruits, roots, milk, ghee, satisfying a brahmin, following the instruction of spiritual master and medicine these eight items do not break once vow of Ekadashi.

 

No-Grain Day

Since grave sinful reactions equal to that of killing a brahamin or a cow take shelter within five types of grains on the day of Ekadashi, persons who desire ultimate benefit give up eating these grains on this day. The five types of grains are

1. Rice or other products made from rice such as flat rice, puffed rice etc.,

2. Wheat flour and White flour etc.,

3. Barley etc.

4. Pulses such as  Moong, Chickpea, Green Peas, Lentil, etc.

5. Mustered oil and sesame oil.

If one eats any of the above mentioned grains then his vow of Ekadashi will be broken.

 

Purpose

Another name of Ekadashi is Haribasara. The main purpose of observing Ekadashi is to totally please Lord Hari with all ones' senses. In other words one should try to please lord Hari and the pure devotees of Hari. The meaning of the word upavasa (fasting) is to live nearby. On the day of Ekadashi one should remain aloof from all kinds of sinful activities, give up all kinds of household activities and sense gratification and live near the Lord or spiritual master. It is stated in Hari Bhakti Vilas 13/14 which is quoted from  ‘Grihya parisista’, ‘Katyana smriti’, ‘Vishnu Dharma’, and ‘Brahma Vaivarta Purana’.

upavrittasya papebhyo
yastu baso gunaih saha
upavasah sa vijneyah
sarva bhoga vivarjitah’

‘The word upavasa or fasting refers to stay aloof from all kinds of sinful activities and sense gratification.’

Lord Hari is the transcendental personality of Godhead and is beyond the three modes of material nature. It is not possible to live with him by the help of ones material body, mind and intelligence. Every conditioned soul is covered by two bodies namely gross and subtle. Therefore how can they live with the Lord?  Observing the vow of Ekadashi is one of the principle limbs among the sixty-four limbs of devotional service described by Shrila Rupa Goswamipad an associate of Shriman Mahaprabhu. Among the sixty-four limbs of devotional service the first and foremost is to take shelter of a bonafide spiritual master. Without taking shelter at the lotus feet of the bonafide spiritual master who is well conversant with the scripture, attached to the absolute truth and very dear to Shri Hari, one cannot engage in worshiping Shri Hari. When one surrenders at the lotus feet of the spiritual master, then by his mercy and empowerment a living entities material pride is destroyed and his pure spiritual constitutional position is revived. As a result he becomes qualified to serve the supreme lord through his service enclained senses in other words he becomes qualified to live with the Lord. The mind is the cause of a living entities bondage or liberation. If one cannot convert the function of the mind into favourable for devotional service, one cannot live with the lord. That is why it is extremely  necessary to associate with pure devotees in order to convert the aversed mind into service inclined mind. Without  being subordinate to the devotees of the Lord one cannot live with the lord even if he engages in various external ritualistic activities. For this reason there is full of difference between the karmis observation of Ekadashi and the devotees observation of Ekadashi. It is stated in Chaitanya Caritamrita Madhya 22/51 as follows.

mahat-kripa vina kona karme 'bhakti'naya
krishna-bhakti dure rahu, samsara nahe ksaya

Unless one is favored by a pure devotee, he cannot attain the platform of devotional service. To say nothing of Krishna-bhakti, one cannot even be relieved from the bondage of material existence.

 

People Observing Ekadashi

Those who observe the vow of Ekadashi are divided into three categories.

  1. The majority of the people of this world consider their gross and subtle bodies as self. They think that the rules and regulation of this scriptures and the prescription of the sages are meant for protecting the self interest of their gross bodies. They are doubtful about the existence of the soul and thus they give more importance to the self interest of the body. Their conception is if the soul exists at all it is simply for the sake of the gross body.
  2. Although these people believe that the constitutional position of a living entity is that he is a spirit soul not the body,the supreme lord is the cause of the living entities and it is the duty of a living entity to worship the supreme lord, nevertheless they consider the deliverance of the soul and happiness of the body are both the goal of life. That is why they think that the scriptural prescriptions such as observing Ekadashi is meant for both deliverance of the soul and protection od the bodies self interest.
  3. These people are minority  in number. They say that a living entity is constitutionally part and parcel of the supreme lord, eternal, full of knowledge and blissful. The two coverings in the form of gross and subtle bodies are attributed to the living entities by the external energy of the lord, hence unwanted. Since the gross and subtle bodies are born from the external energy of the lord therefore the supreme lord is naturally the enjoyer and proprietor of those bodies. In other words the soul, the mind and the body of a living entity are belong to Krishna. Therefore it is the only duty of the soul, mind and body to fully engage in the service of the lord. By worshiping lord Hari ones own and others benefit  is accomplished. Execution of pure devotional service is the only means of attaining eternal peace. In order to please the supreme lord alone they cultivate limbs of pure devotional service such as observing the vow of Ekadashi. They know that the principle purpose  of all these practices is to achieve love of God. They also know that these limbs of devotional service are not prescribed for material sense gratification or protecting the self interest of the gross and subtle bodies. The pure devotees who follow in the foot steps of Shri Chaitanya respects this consideration which is based on pure devotional service.

 

Scriptural Recommendations

Some people say, particularly many devotees from Jagannath Puri in Orissa say that there is no fault in accepting grain mahaprasad of Jagannath on Ekadashi. But the point of consideration at this juncture is that the vaishnavas do not accept any thing other then mahaprasad regularly. Therefore in order to protect the prestige of Ekadashi they offer obeisances to the Mahaprasad and save it for the next day. Shrila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Goswami Prabhupada has given the following explanation in his Anubhasya Commentary on the fifteenth chapter of Adi Lila of Shri Chaitanya Caritamrita.’Shri Jiva Goswami Pad has quoted the following verses of Skanda Purana and Agni Purana in his Bhakti Sandarbha 299 as follows.

  • Even they who are not Vaishnavas should regularly observe ekadashi. This is described in the following words of the Vishnu-dharma Purana: "Whether a Vaishnava or a worshipper of Surya, one should regularly observe ekadashi."
  • In the Saura Purana it is said: "Whether a Vaishnava, a worshipper of Lord Siva, or a worshipper of Surya, one should regularly observe ekadashi."
  • In the Narada-pancaratra, in the discussion of duties to be performed after initiation, after the passage beginning with the words "samayams ca pravaksyami", it is said: "During ekadashis of both paksas one should not eat. At that time one should keep an all-night vigil and one should worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead."
  • In the Vishnu-yamala, in the discussion of the dig-viddha ekadashi, it is said: "One should not act impiously on either the shukla or the krishna ekadashis, without distinction. In the same way, on ekadashi one should not, if one is able, eat fruits or other foods. One should not perform a sraddha ceremony on ekadashi. On dvadasi on should not sleep during the day and one should not pick tulasi leaves."
  • During dvadasi one should not bathe Lord Vishnu during the daytime. In the Padma Purana, Uttara-khanda, in the description of Vaishnava-dharma, it is said: "One should observe the vow of dvadasi".
  • In the Skanda Purana, Kasi-khanda, Sauparna-dvaraka-mahatmya, Candrasarma recounts the following vow of devotional service:
    "O Lord Krishna, please hear my vow. For this day on I will never eat during ekadashi. On every ekadashi I will observe an all-night vigil.
    "With great devotion I will worship You every day. I will not observe the viddha-ekadashis. To please You I will observe the eight maha-dvadasis. This is my vow."
  • In the Agni Purana it is said: "On ekadashi one should not eat. That is the great vow of the Vaishnavas."
  • In the Gautamiya Tantra it is said: "If a Vaishnava foolishly eats during ekadashi, he worships Lord Vishnu in vain. He will go to a terrible hell."
  • In the Matsya and Bhavisya Puranas it is said: "One should fast on the shukla and krishna ekadashis and break the fast on dvadasi. That is the great vow of the Vaishnavas."
  • In the Skanda Purana it is said: "He who eats during ekadashi murders his mother, father, brother and spiritual master. He falls from the path that leads to Vishnuloka.
  • The Vaishnavas always fast on ekadashi. On ekadashi they will not even eat maha-prasadam, what to speak of other foods, which they are forbidden to eat at any time.
  • In the Narada-pancaratra it is said: "O Narada, one must always accept the remnants of food offered to the Lord. However, on ekadashi one must not accept them. Even Goddess Laksmi, and her peers observe ekadashi. What, then, can be said of other persons?"
  • In the Brahmanda Purana it is said: "Without first offering them to Lord Vishnu, one should not enjoy or consume any leaf, flower, fruit, water, food, drink, or medicine.
  • "They who do enjoy or consume these things without offering them first should perform atonement. One should always offer all of these things first to Lord Vishnu before one consumes or enjoys them oneself."
  • Now will be discussed the importance of always observing an all-night vigil on ekadashi. In the Skanda Purana, Lord Siva tells Goddess Uma: "They who do not observe an all-night vigil on ekadashi are rebuked by the Vaishnavas and their piety is destroyed.
  • "They who never consider observing an all-night vigil on dvadasi are not qualified to worship Lord Krishna."
  • By observing ekadashi and dvadasi one pleases Lord Vishnu. This is explained in the following words of the Padma Purana, Uttara khanda: "O goddess, now I will describe the observance of dvadasi. Simply by hearing these words one pleases Lord Krishna."
  • In the Bhavisya Purana it is said: "Sacred ekadashi destroys all sins. It is a lamp that lights that path of devotion to Lord Vishnu. It leads one to the highest goal of life."
  • By showing how ekadashi is observed by Shri Ambarisa and other great souls who have faith in devotional service alone and who eat only maha prasadam offered to the Lord, Shrimad Bhagavatam affirms that the observance of ekadashi is an important part of devotional service to Lord Vishnu.
  • In the Padma Purana, Karttika-mahatmya, is told the story of how by observing ekadashi during the month of karttika a brahmana's daughter became Lord Krishna's dear Satyabhama. What more need be said?
  • Pious deeds are described in these words of Shrimad-Bhagavatam (3.1.19): "While so traversing the earth, he simply performed duties to please the Supreme Lord Hari. His occupation was pure and independent. He was constantly sanctified by taking his bath in holy places, although he was in the dress of a mendicant and had no hair dressing nor a bed on which to lie. Thus he was always unseen by his various relatives." Here the word "vratani" means "many vows, beginning with ekadashi". This verse describes the activities of Vidura. This verse was spoken by Shrila Sukadeva Gosvami.

A description regarding the following of Ekadashi is given by Shri Jagadananda Pandit an associate of Shri Gaur in his book Prema Vivarta as follows.

‘Shri Mahaprabhu said that if one disregards the vow of Ekadashi he brings ruination to his life. One should simply respect the grain prasad on the day of Ekadashi and save it for the next day, for the effect of Ekadashi no longer remains on the next day. The pious vaishnavas are simply satisfied by drinking the nectar of Krishna's holy names on the day of Ekadashi. They do not indulge in any kind of sense gratification, do not speak useless topics and abandon all kinds of material enjoyment. Honouring prasad is an eternal activity of the pure vaishnavas and they never eat any thing that is not first offered to the lord. The devotees should totally fast on the day of Ekadashi  and eat the lords remnants only on the next day. In a special case a vaishnava may take non grain remnants of the lord. Those who are non vaishnavas, they engage in sence gratification day and night on the pretext of honouring prasad. Such people associate with sinful man, eat grain on Ekadashi and disrespect the vow of Ekadashi . Cultivate the limbs of devotional service with respect then you will attain the mercy of Bhakti Devi. Give up the association of non devotees and strictly observe the vow of Ekadashi by engaging in chanting the holy names of the supreme lord. ‘

It is stated in the scripture that one should fast on the day of Ekadashi and never transgrace this rule. O king !  one should observe the vow of Ekadashi as long as he is alive.

It has been repeatedly declared in the Puranas that one should not eat on the day of Ekadashi. It is stated in Vishnu Smriti that all the sinful reaction such as killing a brahamin take shelter in the food grain, therefore if one eats grain on the day of Ekadashi he certainly eats sin. There is no arrangement of attonment for the deliverance of a person who eats grain on Ekadashi, in other words according to the gravity of a sinful activity various arrangement for attonment are prescribed by the twenty dharma sastras, but eating grain on Ekadashi is so grave sin that there is no attonment prescribed for this.

Persons who desire to cultivate pure devotional service should carefully remember the following consideration while following the vow of Ekadashi. The Vaishnavas do not observe any vow or festival on a particular day which is perforated with the previous tithi or day. In such a case they observe the vow or festival on the next day. According to vedic calculation a day starts with the sun rise. If  the day of Dasami continues upto the one and half hours before the sun rise of the next day even then the Ekadashi should not be observed on the next day rather it should be observed the day after. In this regard we quote some authentic scriptural statements found in Shri Hari Bhakti Vilas, the king of the Vaishnava smriti as follows.

O brahamin if the day of Ekadashi starts ninety six minutes before the sun rise then it is pure Ekadashi. A householder should fast on such an Ekadashi. [Garuda Purana]

‘If the tithi or day of Ekadashi begins one hour thirty-six minutes before the sun rise then it is called a complete Ekadashi and if the Ekadashi starts less then one hour thirty six minutes before the sun rise then it should be considered  incomplete and contaminated because it is performed with the previous tithi. Therefore one should give up  the following of Ekadashi if it is mixed with the previous tithi at the time of sunrise. Particularly the Vaishnavas should totally abandon following the vow of  such Ekadashi. The great sage Kanva said, if the day of Ekadashi is piecered with the previous tithi then one should fast on the next day of Ekadashi and brake fast on the following day.’ [Bhavisya Purana]

‘All the days begin from the rising of the sun and complete  up to the next rising of the sun. But this is not the case with Ekadashi. If an Ekadashi starts one hour thirty-six minutes before the sun rise then only it is uncontaminated and complete.’ [Skanda Purana]

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