Glories of Sri Ekadasi - I

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

The Sanskrit word Ekadasi literally means eleven. Ekadasi is the eleventh of the fifteen-day lunar fortnight. In one of the lunar fortnight (called the light month) the moon grows from new moon to full moon and in the following lunar month (called dark month) it diminishes from full moon to no-moon.

Thus in every solar calendar month there are two Ekadasis, the light Ekadasi that occurs on the eleventh day of the waxing moon, and the dark Ekadasi that occurs on the eleventh day of the waning moon. It is recommended that all Vaisnavas should fast on this day of Ekadasi. Such austerity will be greatly beneficial for their devotional life.

Origin of Ekadasi

In the fourteenth chapter of Padma Purana, in the section named Kriya-sagara-sara, Srila Vyasadeva explains the origin of Ekadasi to Sage Jaimini as follows:
At the beginning of the material creation, the Supreme Lord, for the purpose of punishing those human beings who waste their precious human birth, created a personality whose form was the embodiment of sin (Papapurusha).

The different limbs of this personality were composed of all sorts of sinful activities imaginable. Then the personality known as Yamaraja came into existence along with the different hellish planetary systems. Those living entities that are very sinful are sent after death to Yamaraja, who will in turn, according to their sins, send them to one of the seven hells to suffer.

Thus, the living entities, according to their karmic activities began to enjoy or suffer. Seeing so many souls suffering in hellish conditions, the compassionate Lord began to feel sorry for them. Out of this feeling of compassion, there manifested from His divine form one of his internal potencies, the Goddess Ekadasi.

Thus, Ekadasi is the personification of the vow to fast on the eleventh day of the lunar month. Sri Ekadasi is the selfsame form of the Supreme Lord Vishnu. Fasting on Sri Ekadasi is the utmost pious activity and is situated at the top of all vows.

Suffering naturally makes people think of God, so the different sinful living entities began to gradually follow the vow of Ekadasi and were then elevated quickly to the abode of Vaikuntha. Following the ascension of Sri Ekadasi, Papapurusha saw that his own existence was being threatened.

He approached Lord Vishnu praying that, 'O Lord, I too am your created progeny, and it is through me that people become distressed and thus begin to think of God. But now, by the influence of Sri Ekadasi, my very existence is threatened. I cannot find a place where I can be free from the fear of Sri Ekadasi. Oh my Master! I am a product of Your own creation, so therefore very mercifully please direct me to a place where I can reside fearlessly.'

Hearing his prayer, Lord Vishnu, said “I'll tell you where you can stay on the auspicious lunar day of Ekadasi. On the day of Ekadasi, which is the benefactor of the three worlds, you can take shelter in foodstuff in the form of grains.” After instructing Papapurusha, the Supreme Lord Vishnu disappeared and the Papapurusha returned to the performance of his own duties.

Accordingly, every kind of sinful activity that can be found in the material world takes its residence in grains on the day of Ekadasi. Therefore those persons who are serious about their spiritual sadhana will never eat grains on the Ekadasi day. Even Shaivites faithfully observe Sri Ekadasi.

Observing Ekadasi

All Vedic scriptures thus strongly recommend observing complete fast on the day of Ekadasi (without drinking water). Every one from the age of eight to eighty, irrespective of varna-ashram, gender, or any material consideration is recommended to fast on this day to make spiritual progress.

(In the Gaudiya sampradaya, grains means primarily rice, wheat (including all its derivatives), corn, jowar, bajra, chana etc., including legumes such as chick-peas, beans, peas, etc.)

For those who cannot perform the austerity of complete fasting, it is recommended that one can follow Ekadasi by eating once a day at midday, or eating once a day in the evening. However under no conditions should one eat grains in any form on this day.

But, there should be no overdoing in fast. Fast is supposed to cause buoyancy of feeling and not fatigue. So people who are sick and cannot observe a total fast may take milk and fruits, etc. Those who are perfectly healthy and confident, may observe a complete fast. This helps in control of mind and will.

Scientific basis

Astrologers refer to the inter-connectivity or the inter-relationship of the entire universe as an organic whole. Everything is arranged methodically and linked to each other and there is a complex but definite system in operation. Galaxies, inter-stellar space, planetary systems and created beings all have their individual places in the overall system.

We humans too are an inseparable part of the whole. We are not unrelated bodies on the surface of the earth, without a context. We are made of the same stuff that the universe is – the five basic elements, pancha maha-bhuta: earth, air, fire, water and ether.

The observance of Ekadasi is related to the subtle inter-relationship we have with some of the planets in the system. We all know and accept that the planets in our solar system have a profound effect of our lives. Our physical, mental and causal personalities are tremendously influenced by the movement of planets.

The sun is said to influence the core of our personality; hence the sun is called Atmakaaraka. He has the strongest influence on the human soul. Kaaraka is doer, manipulator, director. If there is no sun, we know what difference it makes to us; our digestion becomes sluggish on days when there is no sun. Our mood remains depressed.

The moon, on the other hand, influences the mind. The mind is also made up of material substance. How is mind matter? The mind is the subtle portion of the material substance of our food. We are what we eat. The subtle essence of the food, not only directly taken through the mouth but through all senses, contributes to the make up of the mind or the mind-stuff. The mind is very, very subtle and is made up of everything that we consume, through eyes, nose, ears, mouth and touch.

The mind's presiding deity is the moon. Ekadasi is particularly relevant to this relation of moon and mind. How is Ekadasi related to the movement of moon and mind?

Human beings have subtle astral centres called Chakras in the body. The chakras are subtle spiritual energy-centres which move in circular motion. They are not physical; but psycho-physical and psychological.

These chakras are in the astral body. The moon's influence physically on the body has an internal, subtle influence on the chakras, which tells upon the mind ultimately as the mind moves through the chakras. The mind passes these chakras, up and down.

Advanced yogis can consciously move their mind up and down the subtle energy centres. In others, it happens unconsciously, without their control and is known as the lunar influence.

When the moon waxes or wanes, the mind is decidedly influenced. So people who are not normal in their minds become very agitated on the full-moon and new-moon days.

Everyone is aware of the moon’s influence on the ocean which is liquid. The moon influences the whole earth, but its influence is more clearly visible on the large bodies of water. The human body is 80 percent fluid. Therefore the moon's influence on humans, animals and plants is undeniable.

Another important aspect relates to the ‘Seat’ of the mind which is also twofold. Among the seven centres of mystic energy or chakras in our body, two are particularly the natural ‘abodes’ or ‘seats’ of the mind.

The seats of the mind in our overall personality are: 1. the subtle spot in the astral body corresponding to the centre of the two eye-brows, in waking, and 2. the heart, in the state of deep sleep.

When the mind is in the brain area (sahasraara chakra), it is active and one, then, cannot fall asleep because it refuses to go down. When the mind is midway between the centres of the eye-brows (Ajna chakra) and the heart (Anahat chakra), it is in the dream state.

In both these centres, the mind is ‘at home’ and is most relaxed, because it is in it’s natural place. During the two fortnights in its movement, the mind finds itself ‘at home’ in the Ajna Chakra and the Anahata Chakra on the eleventh day.

Since these two Chakras are its own abode, the mind is at home here, i.e., it gets concentrated and collected easily. This experience has been handed down by our ancients, and this is taken advantage of by serious spiritual aspirants.

So, the Ekadasi day in both fortnights happens to be the time when the mind finds itself in its ‘own’ place—in the bright fortnight in the Ajna Chakra, and in dark fortnight in the Anahata Chakra. One finds concentration more easy when the mind is naturally in its home. The mind cannot be concentrated when it is out of tune, but when it is in its location it is easy of contemplation.


To be continued...