His Divine Grace Om Vishnupad
Question: Could you please tell us the story of Ekadasi?
Ekadasi is a vrata (vow). We have sixty-four bhaktyanga or devotional activities (doing parikrama, arati, etc.), five of which are the main (sadhu-sanga, Nama-sankirtan, etc.), and Ekadasi is one of the bhaktyanga.
It is told in the scripture that once pap (sinful works) and punya (pious activities) were talking to each other on the Ekadasi tithi. They thought, "Where will we stay today? If everything is pious activities, where will the sin stay?" So, they decided that on this day the sin will stay in five items (such as mustard seeds, sesame seeds, flour, rice, dal, etc.). So, if you eat grains on the Ekadasi day, you will be doing a sinful activity.
Mahaprabhu told also, "Who is the offender, the sinner? Those who eat that rice and other grains on the Ekadasi day!" Some scripture also says very heavily: if you take rice on the Ekadasi day, it is the same as eating a cow's meat.
Mahaprabhu is the Acharya, the Guru. Jagadananda Pandit said,
[এই কলি-যুগে] সাধু পাওয়া কষ্ট বড় জীবের জানিয়া ।
[ei kali-yuge] sadhu paoya kasta bada jivera janiya
(Sri Sri Prema-vivarta, 7.8)
It is very rare to get a great soul, a great sadhu in the age of Kali, that is why Krishna Himself came as a Guru, Acharya and taught us—but first He taught His mother. Mahaprabhu asked His mother,
"Mother, I would like to beg something from you. Can you give it to Me?
"Yes, what is it?"
"First say three times that you will."
"OK. I will give, I will give, I will give. What is it?"
"Mother, I want you not to take rice on the Ekadasi day."
Another time, when Nimai was a little boy, He became very hungry, but that day His mother was fasting and doing Ekadasi. Hearing her son cry, she thought maybe He was ill or something was wrong. She took Him to the house of Hiranya Pandit and Jagadish Pandit. At that time, Hiranya and Jagadish were offering the bhog to the Lord, and little Nimai ate at their house.
Ekadasi is for the devotees, not for Lord. I heard that some people follow misconception and do wrong by making the Lord fast on Ekadasi. It is like Gurudev shows us that he follows Ekadasi, and Gurudev is also there in his vigraha form, so what will we offer? We will give the Ekadasi bhog and also rice, dal, subji—we will offer everything to him, and he will take what he wants.
Some people think, "Why should we offer Gurudev rice, dal, etc. on Janmastami, Radhastami, Nityananda trayodasi, Nrisingha chaturdasi, etc.? He does not eat it." Gurudev fasts on these days because he shows to us he is practising, otherwise if he does not show us, how will we learn from him? Nija achari' dharma jivke sikhaya (নিজে আচারি' ধর্ম্ম জীবকে শিখায়). Mahaprabhu Himself shows to us that He is a practitioner, because if He does not practise Himself, how will He teach others?
So, Mahaprabhu told us to follow the Ekadasi vrata and we follow it to please our Guru, to please our Guru-varga, and make Mahaprabhu happy. This is how we follow it.
Srila Pabhupad Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur gave some sithilita-viddhi. Srila Sridhar Maharaj wrote it in the sloka about Srila Prabhupad,
"With his first step, he vigorously cut asunder the whole plane of exploitation, and with his second, he put a stop to all the calculations of the different scholars with their different conceptions of liberation. With his third step, he eased the hard rules and regulations by a touch of the Divine Love: he gave us the worship of Sri Sri Radha and Govinda. The real existence of Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur Prabhupad is in his divine teachings. May those teachings dance eternally within the core of your heart."
Sithilita viddhi means he reduced the viddhi (rules and regulations) a little. Now following Ekadasi is not so strict—you can take some fruit, milk, some non-grain prasad on the Ekadasi day.
Also the medical science says that every day you take so much oil, so much rich food, use so much spices, but if on the Ekadasi day you take only some fruit, some vegetables like potato, papaya, without so much spices, it is good for your health.
So, this is the story.
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