- Nirjala Ekadasi,
- Srila Prabhupada Appreciation; and
- Guru Maharaja’s instructions.
1. NIRJALA EKADASI
Hare Krishna. I am very happy to be here with all of you here in the Southern part of Switzerland called Locarno next to Lake Maggiore, it runs between Switzerland and Italy, a very large lake, a beautiful place by the side of the lake, surrounded by the mountains. A very big film festival takes place here also so this is quite a famous place Locarno. Today we are going to speak on Nirjala Ekadasi and then we will go into the topic of Ekadasi. So first let us start with Nirjala Ekadasi. There are twenty-six Ekadasis, each month has two Ekadasis, and so twelve months have twenty-four Ekadasis but Purusotama month which is like the leap year according to Vedic calculation, one extra month which has two extra Ekadasis so together there are twenty six Ekadasis. Out of that the fourteenth one is Nirjala. This actually begins from November/December. The Vedic months actually begin from the middle of the English month therefore it goes into two months, November/December and from that the Ekadasi is counted so accordingly, fourteenth Ekadasi is Nirjala which comes in June/July and it’s the hot season, summer in India. So those of you in India can well imagine how hot it can be. Even in Switzerland a very cold country we are feeling the heat of the summer the weather is quite hot actually. In the middle of summer this is Nirjala Ekadasi Nirjala means Ekadasi that is meant to be fasted without even drinking water, Ekadasi should be generally fasted like that, without food and without water but in ISKCON Prabhupada did not set such a lofty and austere standard because Prabhupada was dealing with mostly Westerners who are not really accustomed to austerities therefore Prabhupada’s standard was very liberal. Prabhupada’s general attitude was very compassionate so therefore Prabhupada made it a point that devotees can take prasadam but fast from grains and beans. I will come to that why it is important to fast from grains and beans. Now to go to the Nirjala Ekadasi. Although every Ekadasi is meant to be fasted without even drinking water but this particular one that we fast from completely even from water.
The story of Nirjala Ekadasi
The story goes like that Bhima had difficulty observing Ekadasi because another name of Bhima is Brikodar, Brika means wolf and odar means belly. The wolves are famous for being hungry so Bhima is very famous for his appetite, ravenous appetite like a wolf. Bhima when they were in disguise and they were hiding in Ekachakra dhama as wondering Brahmanas, they used to maintain themselves by begging and when they would collect the food half of it used to go to Bhima and the rest shared by all the other brothers and Mother Kunti. Bhima is very fond of eating therefore Bhima used to find it difficult to observe Ekadasi like most of us. He asked Vyasadev what should he do, then Vyasadev actually gave this consideration to Bhima that at least one Ekadasi this Nirjala Ekadasi you fast and by fasting this Nirjala Ekadasi you get the benefit of fasting all the other Ekadasis. Just one Ekadasi a year will give you the benefit of fasting all the Ekadasis in a year. Even one should do achaman very carefully even achaman can be a drinking water so one should very careful just taking a few drops of water on the palm and doing the achaman. Caritamrta also be should take just a few drops like the point is one should not take advantage of doing achaman to drink water or like drink a glass full of caritamrta and saying well we taking caritamrta. So that is the Nirjala Ekadasi. The way Ekadasi is meant to be fasted or observed is as I said one should abstain from even water and food, fasting completely. When one fasts for the twenty-four hours like that from sunrise to sunrise or from Brahma murat to Brahma Murat then one gets the full benefit. When one fasts for the whole day and eats something after sunset he gets half the benefit of Ekadasi. When one eats at midday one gets quarter of the benefit of Ekadasi. We should be very careful Ekadasi is the arrangement of the Supreme Personality of Godhead to free us from our sinful reactions so we should make it a point to take full advantage of this opportunity that the Lord has created for us, so this is the special purpose of observing Nirjala Ekadasi. Nir means no and jala means water so Nirjala means fasting even from water so that is the way one is meant to fast.
Ekadasi is the eleventh day of the movement of the moon
Now I will go to the Ekadasi in general. See Ekadasi means eleventh so the eleventh day of the movement of the moon. Vedic calculation is according to the movement of the moon whereas the western calculation is according to movement of the sun. So according to Vedic calculation the moon goes from full moon to new moon and then again from new moon to full moon. These are known as two pakshas or two wings or sections of the movement of the moon. It goes from new moon, it begins from first day, second day, and third day. It’s counted like pratma or pratipad, ditiya, tritiya, caturti, panchami, sasti, saktami, asmi, naumi, dasami, dasami means ten, Ekadasi, Ekadasi means eleven, Dwadasi, Triyodasi and Caturdasi, the fourteenth day. Then it comes to the full moon purnima. So, in this way fifteen days waxing period of the moon and fifteen days waning period of the moon so in this way a month is consisting of thirty days. So thirty days a month divided into two pakshas consisting of fifteen days each and the eleventh day is called Ekadasi. So there are two narrations of the appearance of Ekadasi.
The story of Ekadasi Brahma-vaivarta Purana
The one narration is from Brahma-vaivarta Purana so this goes like when the Lord created, along with creation also came sin people started to act in a wrong way and as a result of that they would accrue sin so with all the sin a personality appeared, all the sins personified in the form of Papapurusa so this Papapurusa is the personality who is responsible for giving punishment or miseries afflicting living entities with the sinful activities. The body of the Papapurusa is generated from different types of sinful activities. Like a killing of a brahmana causes the head of the Papapurusa, taking intoxication causes the eyes of Papapurusa, stealing gold causes the mouth of Papapurusa, having sexual intercourse with the wife of the guru causes the ears of Papapurusa, killing of one’s wife cause the nose of Papapurusa, killing cows causes the arms of Papapurusa, stealing wealth cause the neck of Papapurusa and abortion causes the chest of Papapurusa. So in this way you can see how the different sinful activities are giving rise to the body of Papapurusa. Along with that Krishna also created Yamaraja. Yamaraja is meant to charge living entities according to their sinful and pious activities. So when the living entity dies according to his sinful activities he is judged by Yamaraja. The Yamadutas takes the living entity there, the gross body dies but the subtle body remains and the subtle body is the embodiment of one’s karmic reactions. The way we act that gives shape to our subtle body. So at the time of death the living entities who are very sinful and attached to their gross body to their material existence they do not want to leave their body then the Yamadutas comes with noose and whips in their hands and put the noose around the neck of the subtle body of the living entity and drag him out of the body. He doesn’t want to come out of the body so they whip him. In one hand they are putting a noose around his neck, they pull him and they beat him with the whip. So this is how they drag the subtle body out of the gross body. The living entities who were very attached. Devotees don’t have to worry about that because the devotees have taken shelter of Krishna the Yamadutas won’t come to them. Yamaraja advises the Yamadutas that they should never go near the devotees. Even if Yamadutas come and even if devotees are taken to Yamaraja, to the abode of Yamaraja, the devotees will not be afraid because the devotees will be delighted to see Yamaraja one of the twelve Mahajanas so devotees will be delighted to have the darshan of Yamaraja and offer obeisances to him and naturally Yamaraja will also treat them in a different way. Generally living entities are dragged out of their material gross body and taken to the abode of Yamaraja and Yamaraja there judges the living entities according to their activities. Yamaraja has a clerk his name is Chitragupta and he records all the activities of all the living entities. Apparently it may seem impossible how one person can keep record of all the activities of all the living entities. But nowadays we have seen the activities of people are being recorded in computers databases and all their details are there. Like if a simple computer where a human being can keep records of so many people what to speak of Yamaraja’s clerk Chitragupta who is especially empowered by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. We should be very careful how we act because all our activities will be recorded and sinful activities are liable to punishment and because of that we may be dragged to Yamaraja’s abode and there we will be charged and punished. So in Yamaraja’s abode (Yamalaya) the sinners are punished and one day Krishna when to Yamaraja’s abode as we know Yamaraja is one of the Mahajanas, great devotees of the Lord, so Krishna visited Yamaraja and he was very pleased to greet Krishna, he washed His feet, offered padya and argya, asana to sit down and he worshipped Him, offered Him bhoga and at that time Krishna heard inhuman cries of agony coming from the Southern side of Yamalaya so He asked Yamaraja “what is happening? Why do I hear these cries of agony? So then Yamaraja told Him, “This is where the sinners are being punished due to their sinful reactions.” Krishna wanted to see and He saw the various kinds of punishments, the living entities are being tortured in a terrible way due to their sinful activities. Krishna decided that they are my creation, my creatures and they are suffering so I must do something to alleviate their suffering condition, to free them from their suffering condition. So Krishna right there created a personality a beautiful young woman and she is Ekadasi, Krishna’s internal potency, Krishna made arrangements that if anybody observes Ekadasi on this particular day which is the eleventh day which she was created he will become free from all sinful reactions. Krishna in this way makes various arrangements to free the living entities from the sinful reaction. Like in Bhagavad Gita also he made this arrangement Sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja give up all your so called pious religious activities, so called duties/responsibilities and just surrender unto Me then I will deliver you from all your sinful reactions, So similarly, Ekadasi is another arrangement of Krishna to free the living entities from the sinful reactions. Sarvadharman parityajya may not be possible but observing Ekadasi is easy. Just observe Ekadasi and you will be free from all your sinful reactions. So in this way Krishna made this arrangement and this was also projected through saintly personalities who were very compassionate and who also want to help living entities to become free from sinful reactions. So when Krishna made this arrangement is was broadcasted all over the universe. Just observe Ekadasi the eleventh day of the lunar movement and you will become from all your sinful reactions. So in this way people just started to become free from their sinful reactions. Now because there was no sin, sin personified Papapurusa, he was dying so one day Krishna saw that sin was staggering towards Him and He asked him, “Why are you in this kind of condition? So sin said, “Look my Lord You are my creator also so You have the responsibility to maintain me but unfortunately for me the day You created the Ekadasi since then all the living entities are observing Ekadasi and becoming free from sinful reaction and as a result of that just see my condition there is no sin in the universe so my existence is becoming practically terminated, therefore please do something for me to survive.” So then Krishna said, “Okay from now on all the sins on the Ekadasi day will enter into the grains and beans.” Now grains actually means the things that grow from plants, when the crops become ripe then the plant dies so that is the definition of grains. The plants when the harvest is ripe it automatically dies. So wheat, rice, maize, barley, corn, all these fall into this category, even the pulses like dhal, beans, beans also notice when they ripe the plant dies. So, this day the day of Ekadasi Krishna made the arrangement for Papapurusa that all the sins will enter into grains and those who take grains on that day although they may not have physically committed those sins they will liable to those sinful reactions so that is why on Ekadasi days we so strictly observe so that we do not take grains or beans. Taking the grains on that day one will be taking the sins although they have not committed the sins. Therefore the devotees are very careful on the Ekadasi day the devotees don’t even take maha prasadam although the maha prasadam is free from sinful reaction, free from any karmic reactions and still devotees don’t even take maha prasadam also on that day. The devotees should be very careful not to take grains and beans on that day. So that is the appearance of Ekadasi and why we abstain from grains and beans.
Ekadasi is also known as Harivasar
Now this Ekadasi is also known as Harivasar, Hari means Supreme Personality of Godhead and vasar means day. The day of Hari. This day is so dear to Hari that it is considered to be His day. Therefore observing Ekadasi immensely pleases the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna. There is another narration of the appearance of Ekadasi that is there was a demon called Mura. Mura demon was so powerful that he defeated all the demi-gods Indra, Candra, Varuna,. all these different demi-gods were defeated by Mura demon, he drove them out of the heavenly planet. He assumed the control of the universe. Actually demi-gods take care of different universal affairs like rising of the sun, rising of the moon, controlling the wind, controlling the air, controlling rain so these are the universal affairs controlled by the demi-gods. Now Mura drove them out which is their place of residence and he took over the heavenly planet and being completely distort the demi-gods approached Lord Siva and asked him what they should do, this particular demon has driven them out so they asked Him to help them. Lord Siva expressed his inability and said, “Look, I can’t do anything but you can go to the Supreme Personality of Godhead Jaganatha Lord of the Universe go to Him and tell Him to do something about it.” So when the demigods went to Narayana, Jaganatha, to pray to Him to please do something about this and when Narayana heard that He became very very angry. He said, “Who dares to interfere in my arrangement?” The demigods controlling the different elements in nature is actually Krishna’s arrangement so to disregard that arrangement is to disregard Krishna. So Krishna was very upset and He said, “Okay you all pick up your weapons and where is the Mura demon?” So they went to his abode and attacked him and Mura was extremely powerful and he was also supported by millions of other asuras demons and when the demigods attacked them Mura becoming very angry he counter attacked and the demi-gods ran away. These demons attacked the only person that was standing there was Hari, Narayana. Narayana at that time just released His weapons and millions of arrows were coming out of his bow killed all those demons and at that time Mura decided to confront Him so that is the Vedic way of fighting. The leaders don’t fight at the beginning they send the less powerful ones to fight and then greater and greater strength comes and so finally Mura was the only one left. So Mura started to fight and to His great surprise the Lord saw that His weapons were not being effective. So then they started to fight with bear hands wrestling and they fought for a long long time. Still Mura could not be defeated and finally becoming exhausted the Lord retreated to Badarikasrama and he went to a cave called Himavati to take rest. Hima means snow a huge cave with only one entrance covered in snow and ice. The Lord fell asleep there and at that time Mura entered there after chasing the Lord but the Lord was sleeping so Mura thought he could take advantage and kill my enemy Hari. So when Mura was about to attack the sleeping Lord then a beautiful young woman appeared from the body of the Lord. She stopped Mura and they fought. Mura’s weapons were totally ineffective to this young girl and all of his weapons were exhausted and Mura just came to attack this woman with bear hands. Another law of Vedic way of fighting if the enemy doesn’t have a weapon then they drop their weapon and fight with bear hands. Naturally this young girl was going to fight hand to hand with Mura, with her razor-sharp weapon she cut the head off Mura and killed him. So when the Lord woke up He saw Mura’s head body there and this beautiful woman so He asked, “Who are you?” She narrated the whole story to the Lord and the Lord said, “Even I could not defeat this demon and you have defeated him so ask for any boon.” She said, “Give me the boon that from now on that whoever on this vow of austerity, observes fasting, abstaining from frivolous talks, bathing and worshipping the Lord and staying up the whole night, singing the glory of the Lord, he will become free from all sinful reactions.” The Lord granted that boon and He also told her “Since you have appeared on this day of Ekadasi therefore you will be identified as Ekadasi your name will be Ekadasi.” This is how Ekadasi began and this is the first Ekadasi called Utpanna Ekadasi Utpanna meaning generated or produced because she appeared on this day in this month of November it is known as Utpanna Ekadasi.
So observe this Ekadasi very nicely and take advantage of this wonderful arrangement that Krishna made.
The twenty-six Ekadasis are known as Utpanna, Mokshada, Saphala, Putrada, Sat-Tila, Bhaimi, Vijaya, Amalaki, Papamochani, Kamada, Varuthini, Mohini, Apara, Nirjala, Yogini, Sayana, Kamika, Pavitropana, Annada, Parsva, Indira, Papankusha, Rama and Utthana. Purushotam has two more Ekadasi known as Padmini and Parama. So this is how there are twenty-six Ekadasis. Hare Krishna. So observe this Ekadasi very nicely and take advantage of this wonderful arrangement that Krishna made. Just observe one day Ekadasi every fortnight and the benefit you will derive from that is inconceivable especially today Nirjala Ekadasi. Fast from water observe it properly and you will get the benefit of observing Ekadasi and medically also it is said that fasting twice a month is very good for health because this way your digestive system gets complete rest. Generally we not only eat we overeat and that excess food becomes toxins when the food that is not digested in the stomach becomes toxic then this toxins in the body give rise to various diseases. When we fast then our fire of digestion burns out whatever food was there from previous days in the stomach and then it starts to burn the poisons and toxins in the body. Therefore fasting is a very good detox process so in this way clinically we can also see that it has its own benefit. It’s not that we should fast for physical wellbeing but the point is that while we are deriving spiritual benefit physically also there is benefit. Although the purpose is to derive spiritual benefit we can also derive the physical, material benefits. Thank you very much. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
2. SRILA PRABHUPADA APPRECIATION
Prabhupada’s general attitude was very compassionate so therefore Prabhupada made it a point that devotees can take prasadam but fast from grains and beans on Ekadasi. Always live in ISKCON and never leave ISKCON because ISKCON is the lotus feet of Srila Prabhupada. Serve Srila Prabhupada your whole life.
3. GURU MAHARAJA’S INSTRUCTIONS
We should be very careful Ekadasi is the arrangement of the Supreme Personality of Godhead to free us from our sinful reactions so we should make it a point to take full advantage of this opportunity that the Lord has created for us, so this is the special purpose of observing Nirjala Ekadasi;
Just observe Ekadasi and you will be free from all your sinful reactions;
The devotees should be very careful not to take grains and beans on that day;
So observe this Ekadasi very nicely and take advantage of this wonderful arrangement that Krishna made. Just observe one day Ekadasi every fortnight and the benefit you will derive from that is inconceivable especially today Nirjala Ekadasi. Fast from water observe it properly and you will get the benefit of observing Ekadasi;
(The content of this E-magazine was based on a lecture given by His Holiness Bhakti Charu Swami in Switzerland on Nirjala Ekadasi 20 June 2013 which was teleconferenced via Mayapur TV and ISKCON Ujjain)
(Compiled and edited by Hemavati Radhika Dasi)