Glories of Sri Ekadasi - II

Om Vishnupad 108 Tridandi Swami Sri Srimat Bhakti Sravan Tirtha Goswami Maharaj ki Jai !!

Devotional Significance

The importance of Ekadasi for devotees of Lord Krishna cannot be emphasized enough. All Vaishnavas and for that matter even Shiva followers assiduously observe Sri Ekadasi.

Ekadasi is also called “Hari-Vasara” (Lord Hari’s day). All our gurujan have steadfastly observed the Ekadasi-Dwadasi vrata or Upavasa on this sacred day. Upa means near and Vasa means to stay. To stay close to Hari contemplating on His auspicious qualities. This is the summum bonum of Ekadasi vrata.

In Bengal, some of the Hindus who converted to Islam from the days of the Muslim conquest centuries ago, observe fasting on Ekadasi days even today. The guru of the Sitar maestro Sri Ravi Shankar was an Ekadasi observing Muslim.

The day of Ekadasi is to be spent in meditation and dhyan of Sriman Narayana, reading of Bhagavatam, japa, etc. For those , who are unable to perform all of these, a recitation of Sri Vishnu Sahasranam stotra once is recommended.

It is confirmed by Srila Vyasadeva in the Mahabharata Udyama Parva thus:

Ashtaitani avrataghnani hy apo mulam payo dadhi
havir brahmana kamya ca guror vacanam ausadham

"The eight following exceptions do not break one's fast: drinking water, eating potatoes, sweet potatoes, drinking milk, eating yogurt, eating butter, eating things by the request of a traditionally authentic Brahmana following the orders of a Vedicaly authorized Guru, and consuming prescribed medicines."

The scriptures state that even those who do not eat on Ekadasi days due to anger, desire (kaama) or greed (lobha) get the full fruits of the observance of Ekadasi vrata, even if their intent was not on observing Ekadasi vrata.

The greatness of Dwadasi vratha that incorporates within it the Ekadasi vratha is illustrated by the story of the King Ambarisha, a predecessor of Sri Ramachandra.

He observed Dwadasi Vrata for a whole year on the banks of the river Yamuna. Ambarisha Maharaj was a great devotee of Sri Krishna and a Nishkaama Karmi.

At the conclusion of the year's observance of Dwadasi vratha, Durvasa muni visited Ambarisha Maharaj on the day of the final paarana . The king was happy to have the visit of the famed sage and invited him to be his honored guest before his paarana. Durvasa muni was famous for his habit of flying into rage over any intended or unintended discourtesy to him and pronouncing curses on the hapless victims.

The sage was himself an observer of Ekadasi vrata. He showed up in the court of king Ambarisha, while there was one and half hours left for the completion of the Dwadasi tithi . The sage accepted the invitation to take food at the royal household as an honoured guest of the king on that Dwadasi day. He mentioned to the king that he would first go to the river to bathe and perform other rituals and return to the palace for the meals.

Since Durvasa muni only observed the Ekadasi vrata, he had no sensitivity about breaking his fast before the conclusion of the Dwadasi tithi. Hence he tarried at the river as the clock was ticking away towards the end of the tithi.

The king was in a great dilemma. On one hand he could not start his paarana before Durvasa muni has eaten, on the other hand , he would lose the fruits of the observance of the whole year's Dwadasi vrata, if he did not break his fast before the conclusion of the Dwadasi tithi. He consulted his priests on what to do while waiting for Durvasa muni to return from the river.

The assembled Vedic scholars ruled that the king could take a sip of the holy water, charanaamrita, used in the abhishek of the shaligram shilas prior to the conclusion of the Dwadasi tithi to fulfill the requirements of the timely paarana.

This way, he would gain the fruits of the observance of the Dwadasi vrata, while waiting for the return of the Sage Durvasa. The king took one spoonful of shaligram charanaamrita. Minutes later, the sage came back to the palace and flew into a rage when he learned that the king had broken his fast with a sip of sacred water, prior to feeding him.

Displaying a temper tantrum, the angry sage pulled out a lump of hair from his matted locks and dashed it on ground. A fierce demon came out and began to run towards the king to destroy him . The king did not move but merely contemplated on Sri Hari.

At the same time, the divine Sudarshan Chakra appeared and killed the demon. Next it began to chase the angry Durvasa. The heat from the Lord’s glorious Sudarshan Chakra was equivalent to thousands of suns and Durvasa muni began to run to escape from it.

He ran in all directions but the Chakra followed relentlessly behind. He went to Lord Brahma and appealed for rescue. Lord Brahma said he was powerless to do anything. Next he went to Lord Shiva in Mount Kailash. Lord Shiva said he has no power to stop the powerful Sudarshan either. Finally, Durvasa muni went to Sri Vaikuntha and fell at the feet of Sri Narayana, begging to be saved from the chasing disc of His.

The Lord replied :

Aham bhaktha paraadheena: hya-svatantra iva dhvija
sadhubhi: grastha hrudhaya: bahkthairbhaktha jaanpriya:
Naaham-aatmaanam aasaasey madh-bhakthai: saadh-ubhirvinaa
Sriyam chaahyanthakeem brahmanyeeshaam gathiraham paraa

‘O Great Sage ! I am completely under the control of my devotees. I cannot do anything out of my own volition in such cases involving aparaadh to my devotees. My love for my bhaktas is greater than that for Myself or My consort, Sri Maha Lakshmi.’

Saadhavo hrudhayam mahyam saadhunaam hrudhyam tvaham
madanyatthee n ajaananthi naaham teybhyo managapi

‘My devotees are always in my heart and I am in their heart. They do not know anything other than Me and I do not know anything other than them.’

Then the Lord reminded Durvasa muni that the all penance (tapasya) and knowledge (gyan) are useless as long as there is no modesty and humility to accompany them. The Lord then suggested that the Sage return to the feet of His bhakta Maharaj Ambarisha and seek his forgiveness.

Durvasa muni ran to Ambarisha Maharaj with the Sudarshan chakra still following him and fell at the feet of the King. The sage returned to the king after a whole year of running hither and thither to escape the Lord's discus.

Meanwhile, King Ambarisha was waiting patiently for the return of the Sage to complete his Dvaadasi paarana. The king consumed only water during that entire year of waiting. Maharaj Ambarisha saw the brilliant Sudarshan with its flames and sixteen kinds of weapons chasing the Sage rushing towards him.

He was awe struck and began to pray and glorify Sudarsana Bhagavan to spare the sage. Sudarshan Bhagavan acceded to the prayer of the dear bhakta and returned to the Lord. Durvasa muni then praised the piety of the King and blessed him as well.

That is the legend behind the power of Ekadasi / Dwadasi vrata.

Jai Sri Radhey

Jai Guru