California, USA — June 30th, 2013

Observing ekadasi

I did not observe the last ekadasi. (I thought it was a day later, because I looked at the wrong calendar.) This last ekadasi, as you probably know, was the unique nirjal ekadasi associated with the Pandava, Bhima.

Bhima had such an enormous appetite that he was unable to observe ekadasi, so Srila Vedavyasa advised him to try to at least observe this one ekadasi (which occurs at the hottest time of the year), because if one is able to strictly follow this complete fast, without even drinking water (nir-jal), they obtain the benefits of all twenty-six ekadasis.

So if you want to make up for any previous ekadasis that you may have forgotten or failed to properly observe, this is the one ekadasi that you don't want to miss...

And I missed it!

But then I have never observed this nirjal ekadasi without jal so that I can reap the benefits of having observed every ekadasi during the preceding year, because that is not why we honor the ekadasi vow.

We don't observe ekadasi to obtain the benefits associated with each ekadasi story in the Puranas: observing this particular ekadasi is greater, in effect, than giving all kinds of charity, performing all kinds of sacrifice, going to all the holy places of pilgrimage, etc. We fast to minimize the demands of the body, so that we can increase our service.

As Srila Guru Maharaj explains:

Krishna Himself feels a greater necessity for enjoyment on ekadasi, and service in the time of need has greater value. When Krishna's enjoying mood is greatest, a little service will draw the most remuneration. We can maximize the return on our service investment by spending less time eating and more time serving those devotees who are supplying the paraphernalia for Krishna's enjoyment.

The primary purpose of ekadasi is to increase our service; the benefits connected with each ekadasi are merely the byproducts of devotional service. We should not allow these spurious side effects to entice us (taranga-rangini), or attach too much importance to the incentives meant to motivate those who are reluctant to serve without some sort of remuneration (niyamagraha).

If we forget to observe ekadasi, there's not too much that we can do about it (other than lament the wasted opportunity to increase our service). And if we knowingly ignore ekadasi — thinking, "I'll make up for it by observing nirjal ekadasi" — well, that's like cheating, isn't it?

Cheating is the antithesis of sincerity. If we are always looking for ways to avoid doing any service, or trying to take advantage of the special dispensations granted to others (like Bhima), how can we be sincere?

We don't have a lot going for us in this awful Age of Kali, but one thing that we can have, is sincerity. And sincerity is invincible.

Tags: Observing Ekadasi


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