Devotee: On Ekadasi, can we can offer the Deity grains?
Srila Prabhupada: Oh yes. But not guru. Ekadasi observed by jiva-tattva, not by Visnu-tattva. We are fasting for clearing our material disease, but Radha-Krsna, Caitanya Mahaprabhu... Caitanya Mahaprabhu also may not be offered grains because He is playing the part of a devotee. Only Radha-Krsna, Jagannatha can be offered grains. Otherwise, Guru-Gauranga, no. And the prasadam should not be taken by anyone. It should be kept for next day. [Srila Prabhupada Room Conversation, Tokyo, April 22, 1972]
Regulated fasting on Ekadasi is not an impediment to spiritual advancement. Rather, it is a perpetual aspect of devotional service and can be considered an auxiliary principle supporting the main principle of worshiping Lord Krsna and His devotees. Because such secondary principles help one become fit for executing the primary processes of devotional service, they are also greatly beneficial. Therefore, such secondary principles are widely mentioned throughout Vedic literature. It may be concluded that such secondary principles are essential for advancement in Krsna consciousness, and therefore one should never give up the principle of vrata, the execution of prescribed vows...
Ambarisa Maharaja, along with his queen, observed the vow of Ekadasi and Dvadasi for one year. Since Ambarisa Maharaja is considered to be a great jewel among Vaisnavas, and since his behavior was always exemplary, it is definitely concluded that such vows as fasting on Ekadasi are imperative for Vaisnavas. It is further stated in Vedic literature, “If due to negligence a Vaisnava does not fast on Ekadasi, then his worship of Lord Visnu is useless, and he will go to hell.” The members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness fast from grains and beans on Ekadasi, and this vow should always be observed by all of its members. [SB 11.12.1-2, purport]
From the very beginning of His childhood life Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu introduced the system of observing a fast on the Ekadasi day. In the Bhakti-sandarbha, by Srila Jiva Gosvami, there is a quotation from the Skanda Purana admonishing that a person who eats grains on Ekadasi becomes a murderer of his mother, father, brother and spiritual master, and even if he is elevated to a Vaikuntha planet, he falls down. On Ekadasi, everything is cooked for Visnu, including regular grains and dhal, but it is enjoined that a Vaisnava should not even take visnu-prasadam on Ekadasi. It is said that a Vaisnava does not accept anything eatable that is not offered to Lord Visnu, but on Ekadasi a Vaisnava should not touch even maha-prasadam offered to Visnu, although such prasadam may be kept for being eaten the next day. It is strictly forbidden for one to accept any kind of grain on Ekadasi, even if it is offered to Lord Visnu. [CC. Adi. 15.9, purport]
Life is Meant for Tapasya
nayam deho deha-bhajam nr-loke
kastan kaman arhate vid-bhujam ye
tapo divyam putraka yena sattvam
suddhyed yasmad brahma-saukhyam tv anantam
Lord Rsabhadeva told His sons: My dear boys, of all the living entities who have accepted material bodies in this world, one who has been awarded this human form should not work hard day and night simply for sense gratification, which is available even for dogs and hogs that eat stool. One should engage in penance and austerity to attain the divine position of devotional service. By such activity, one’s heart is purified, and when one attains this position, he attains eternal, blissful life, which is transcendental to material happiness and which continues forever.
Tapo divyam putraka, this life is meant for tapasya. Yes, tapasya. Tapas carana karo, to undergo severe austerities and penance. As a result one will be in suddha-sattvam. Lord Rsabhadeva says the result is suddhyed yasmad brahma-saukhyam tv ananta, then you will be purified. Your mind, your heart and your consciousness will be purified. You will get brahma saukhyam, transcendental happiness and blissfulness. It is sac-cid-ananda-vigraha, you will get Krishna. This is transcendental happiness and blissfulness. Life is meant for tapasya.
Giving Pleasure to Sri Krishna
Ambarish Maharaja is a devotee, he knows about the benefit of tapasya, so he observes Ekadasi, dvadasi-vrata, krsna-pritye bhoga-tyaga, [Cc. Mad. 22.116] for the pleasure of Krishna, to give enjoyment and happiness to Krishna one should give up ones own enjoyment, krsna-pritye bhoga-tyaga. Give up your own enjoyment. Krishna is to be pleased. Give pleasure and happiness to Krishna, that is the purpose of a vaisnava. Jivera 'svarupa' haya, jiva is vaisnava, jivera 'svarupa' haya-krsnera 'nitya-dasa'. [Cc. Mad. 20.108] This is the svarupa, identification of the jiva. Who are you? What is your identification? Mahaprabhu says, gopi-bhartuh pada-kamalayor dasa-dasanudasah [Cc. Madhya 13.80] “I am the servant of the servant of the servant of the husband of the gopis.” This is my identification. Render loving service unto gopi-bhartuh, the husband of the gopis, Gopinatha. Give Him all pleasure and happiness, not for you. Sastra says, mahajana says, sadhu says, Bhaktivinoda Thakura mahajana-sadhu says,
nija-sukha lagi' kichu nahi kori ar
bhakativinoda bole, tava sukha-sar
[Saranagati, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Amara Jivana, vs. 2]
Bhaktivinoda Thakura says, nija-sukha lagi' kichu nahi kori ar, bhakativinoda bole, tava sukha-sar. "I won’t do anything for my own enjoyment and happiness. O Lord, I will do everything for your enjoyment and happiness, tava sukha-sar." This is a bhakta, vaisnava. Krsna-pritye bhoga-tyaga, for the pleasure and happiness of Krishna he gives up his own enjoyment and happiness. That is tapasya.
Ekadasi Vrata is an Anga of Bhakti
This ekadasi-vrata is one of the angas of sadhana-bhakti, ekadasi-upavasa— fasting on Ekadasi. In Sanatana-siksa, Mahaprabhu is teaching Sanatana Goswami:
vividhanga sadhana-bhaktira bahuta vistara
sanksepe kahiye kichu sadhananga-sara
guru-padasraya, diksa, gurura sevana
krsna-pritye bhoga-tyaga, krsna-tirthe vasa
[CC. Madhya 22.114-116]
Mahaprabhu gives instruction to Sanatana Goswami while teaching sadhana-bhakti. He says, precisely I am saying, sadhana-bhakti has manifold angas, sixty-four angas, ekadasi-vrata is one of them.
One Must Fast on Ekadasi
krsna-pritye bhoga-tyaga, krsna-tirthe vasa
[Cc. Madhya 22.116]
“The next steps are as follows: (6) One should be prepared to give up everything for Krsna’s satisfaction, and one should also accept everything for Krsna’s satisfaction. (7) One must live in a place where Krsna is present—a city like Vrndavana or Mathura or a Krsna temple. (8) One should acquire a livelihood that is just sufficient to keep body and soul together. (9) One must fast on the Ekadasi day.
Mahaprabhu has said, give up all your sense enjoyment for the pleasure of Krishna. Every Ekadasi one should fast. There are two Ekadasis in a month. Twenty-four Ekadasis in a year. Fasting, complete fasting, no eating. There are many fasting days: Janmastami day, Rama-navami day, Nityananda Prabhu’s appearance day, Baladeva Prabhu’s appearance day, Varaha-dvadasi, Nrisimha-caturdasi, Gaura Purnima day, so many fasting days are there in the vaisnava calendar. By following these fasting days is considered vrata. krsna-pritye means for the pleasure of Krishna, so this is tapasya.
So many things Mahaprabhu said to Sanatan Goswami while instructing him on the sadhana-bhakti-anga.
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu Begs Charity from Srimati Sacimata
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu asked Sacimata to observe Ekadasi, by fasting. In Caitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila 15th chapter you’ll find:
eka dina matara pade kariya pranama
prabhu kahe,—mata, more deha eka dana
mata bale,—tai diba, ya tumi magibe
prabhu kahe,—ekadasite anna na khaibe
[Cc. Adi 15.8-9]
One day Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu fell down at the feet of His mother and requested her to give Him one thing in charity. His mother replied, “My dear son, I will give You whatever You ask.” Then the Lord said, “My dear mother, please do not eat grains on the Ekadasi day.”
Mahaprabhu asked His mother to fast on Ekadasi day. “My mother please don’t eat grains on Ekadasi day.” And Sacimata accepted and from that day forward, Sacimata started to observe Ekadasi. Prior to this, Sacimata was not fasting. She was taking grains on Ekadasi day because according to the smarta brahmanas, only those who are widows, women, will fast on Ekadasi day. But those who are not widows they won’t observe. That was the prevailing culture at the time. So Sacimata was not observing Ekadasi fasting. But Mahaprabhu requested her to now follow. “Mahaprabhu fell down at the feet of His Mother and requested Her to give one thing in charity. Sacimata said, “my dear Son I will give you whatever you ask.” Then Mahaprabhu said, “My dear Mother please don’t eat grains on Ekadasi day.” From that day, Sacimata observed Ekadasi.
The Sin of Eating Grains
In the Bhakti-sandarbha, Jiva Goswami has written, if someone eats anna, grains on Ekadasi day, what will happen? Jiva Goswami has quoted the Skanda Purana:
matrha pitrha caiva bhratrha guruha tatha
ekadasyam tu yo bhunkte visnu-loka-cyuto bhavet
[Bhakti-sandarbha, Anuccheda 199]
If somebody eats anna, grains on Ekadasi day he becomes the killer of his mother, killer of his father, killer of his brother, killer of his guru, guruha. On Ekadasi day all sorts of sinful reactions are there in anna on Ekadasi day, yes. If somebody consciously or unconsciously eats anna, eats grain on Ekadasi, he commits all sinful activities because all sins are there in anna on this day. This is what the Vedic literature says, sastra vakyam. Therefore it is forbidden to eat anna on Ekadasi day. No anna-bhojan. You’ll commit all sorts of sins by eating anna on Ekadasi day. Today, all are committing this transgression.
Who should be observing? It is said, even the boy up to five years may not observe Ekadasi. However by the sixth year he must observe. One can take some fruit and milk. Also old men above eighty years old may not observe, but up to eighty they must observe. It is said, ekadasyam tu yo bhunkte visnu-loka-cyuto bhavet, if somebody eats grains on Ekadasi he’ll fall down from Vaikuntha, yes, he’ll fall down from there.
atra vaisnavanam niraharatvam nama maha-prasadanna-parityaga eva
tesam anya-bhojanasya nityam eva nisiddhatvat
ekadasyam na bhoktavyam tad vratam vaisnavam mahat
tatra tavad asya avaisnave’pi nityatvam
[Bhakti-sandarbha, Anuccheda 299-300]
This is a quotation from Bhakti-sandarbha. This means, those who are vaisnavas will fast from grains on Ekadasi day. Every day a vaisnava takes maha-prasada. The day there is no maha-prasada is maha-prasada tyaga, also known as Ekadasi. No maha-prasada is to be taken on Ekadasi. Maha-prasada will be kept for the next day, the twelfth day, parana. Vaisnavas observe parana, [exact times within which to break-fast]. If the parana, is not observed then one cannot get the result of this vrata. Therefore parana must be observed on the twelfth day. Maha-prasada is always kept and eaten on the next day [12th day]. This is known as maha-prasada tyaga. One should not take maha-prasada on Ekadasi day, no. This is followed by vaisnavas, and is known as vaisnava-vrata. Tatra tavad asya avaisnave, if one will not follow this vrata then you are considered avaisnava [non-devotee]. So this is what Mahaprabhu has said. So many things are there.
Fasting on Ekadasi
Devotee: Guru Maharaja, you were saying that we shouldn’t take maha-prasadam on Ekadasi, but in temples they cook and offer things without any grains like fruit, milk and vegetables that becomes maha-prasadam. Should we also not take this?
Srila Gour Govinda Swami: maha-prasada should not be taken on Ekadasi.
Devotee: Even if it is anna-kalpa? Fruit and milk still should not be taken?
Srila Gour Govinda Swami: Fruit and milk we take but it should not be maha-prasada.
Devotee: Sometimes they make a special offering for Gaura-Nitai on Ekadasi.
Srila Gour Govinda Swami: Krishna never does any vrata [austerity]. Whatever the general prasadam is, the daily, regular preparation should be done and offered to Krishna because He is the enjoyer. We must give him all enjoyment. But on Ekadasi day it is forbidden for us to have maha-prasada. We won't take it. We keep the maha-prasada for the next day. We may take some fruit and milk but that wont be offered to Krishna. No, it should not be maha-prasada. Also we won't take tulasi leaf on Ekadasi. There should be no tulasi taken on Ekadasi day. Therefore, we never take caranamrta and tulasi on Ekadasi day, no.
Devotee: No one follows that in the West.
Srila Gour Govinda Swami: We are now reading this section in the Srimad Bhagavatam classes, ambarisa-carita. Ambarish fasted on dvadasi day and will take parana. Durvasa will come as his invited guest, but time is passing and Durvasa didn’t come. It is customary to not eat before the guest. So what to do? Ambarish cannot take maha-prasad because his guest is there. Then what did he do? He took one tulasi leaf and some water. In this way he broke the fast. So do you understand?
Devotees: Jaya Srila Gurudeva
Ekadasi Vrata is For the Vaisnava Not the Lord
So on Ekadasi everything is cooked for Vishnu including regular grains and dhal. But it is enjoined in the Vedas that a vaisnava should not take Vishnu prasad, maha-prasad on Ekadasi. This is a vrata followed by the devotee, not for Bhagavan. Bhagavan doesn’t follow such a vrata. For Bhagavan Vishnu Krishna we will prepare all sorts of nice food and it will be offered on Ekadasi. But a vaisnava should not eat that maha-prasada. It will be kept for the next day, Dvadasi day. We will follow parana [break-fast at an exact time]. It is said, “On Ekadasi, a vaisnava should not even touch maha-prasadam offered to Vishnu although such maha-prasadam will be kept and eaten the next day. It is strictly forbidden to accept any kind of grains on Ekadasi even if it is offered to Lord Vishnu.”
For the Pleasure of Krishna
A vaisnava only accepts maha-prasadam and never eats food which is not offered to Vishnu. Are you eating outside? Are you eating in hotels? Bazar? No? No? Strictly following? That is good. One should not eat in any hotel, restaurant, or bazar outside, nothing. Only maha-prasad offered to Vishnu Krishna will be accepted and eaten. If you eat food from outside which is not offered to Krishna, that is not maha-prasad, then you commit aparadha and your consiciousness will be polluted.
If you eat in hotels, restaurants and bazars outside your consciousness will be polluted. “I am hungry, I am preaching, I will eat outside.” Some say, “I am preaching, I am far away from the temple. I cannot go back to take prasada. How can I get maha-prasadam? Where it is available? If I am hungry, how can I preach? I must eat.” Yes, nobody says 'don’t eat.' Eat! But don’t eat food which is not maha-prasad. Food which is not offered to Krishna or Vishnu.
Don’t eat food from outside hotels or restaurants. This food is not offered and they have not cooked for Vishnu or Krishna. You may say, “yes, I may not eat fish, meat, onion, garlic. So I request the restaurant owner please cook in this way. Don’t put any onion, garlic. I am vaisnava. I will eat vegetarian food.” He is doing business, he earns money by selling food. He may say, “Oh yes, I have cooked for you and I have not put any onion and garlic, fish or meat in there.” So you may think, “I will take this food and offer it to Krishna then it becomes maha-prasadam and then I will eat.” But Krishna will not touch it, because it is not cooked for Krishna. The cook in the outside restaurant has not cooked for Krishna. Krishna knows the intention and who has cooked. Krsna knows if the food was cooked for selling, to get money. The outside cook has not cooked for Krishna, so Krishna will never accept it.
If you offer outside cooked food to Krsna, still you will find that your consciousness has become polluted. Yes. Many do like that. Therefore, they cannot make any advancement on the path of Krishna consciousness because they are eating outside. So for us we should follow very strictly if you are serious to develop Krishna consciousness, yes. Follow strictly so not to pollute your consciousness. For devotees preaching outside it is best to take some uncooked food. Never take cooked food from outside. Fruits are always available everywhere. Different uncooked foods are also available. For example we have chipped rice, sugar, molasses etc. You may purchase and prepare. Prepare yourself for Vishnu Krishna, then offer it. Then you may take it. Understand?