The Scientific Basis of Ekadashi

Śrīla Bhakti Rakṣak Śrīdhar Dev-Goswāmī Mahārāj explains the relationship between service and rasa.

Student: Mahārāj, since today is Ekādaśī, I was wondering if you could tell us a little something about the importance of Ekādaśī.

Śrīla Śrīdhar Mahārāj: We are to understand what is aprākṛta. Aprākṛta means that which is like prākṛta, but is not; that which is similar to the mundane, but is not mundane. So, aprākṛta means supramundane. The colour of the mundane is there, so, the word mundane is there, but we are given a warning that it is not mundane, so we are told supramundane. That which is aprākṛta bears similarity to the mundane, is like the mundane, but it is not mundane.

By the influence of the moon, the rasa, the watery portion in the body, within everything everywhere here in this world increases. In the ocean also, there is the tide, the ebb and flow of high and low tide. As the time of the full moon and the new moon nears, the watery portion within everything swells, and thereby the enjoying spirit increases. I am speaking from a lecture of my Guru Mahārāj in Kurukṣetra in 1927 or ’28 about the scientific basis of Ekādaśī.

By the movement of the earth, the moon, the sun, and the other planets, heat decreases, the rasa, the exciting juice, in our body is enhanced, and thereby the tendency for exploitation, for enjoyment, increases. So, fasting is necessary to meet with that external movement in nature. Fasting can save us from that particular reaction. So, fasting has been recommended, and specially, if one can’t fast at all, if it is impossible, then one may follow a diet that will give less cause for excitement. That is called anukalpa. But mainly fasting is recommended. Why? To check the senses. Because the pull of the senses at that time, by the flow of nature, becomes more intense, the result is that one is excited and wants to enjoy, to encroach on the environment. So, this unfair encroachment of our own self should be controlled, and fasting has been recommended. This is one way Ekādaśī is explained.

In another way, if this consideration is taken to the centre, then by such conditions in the environment, Kṛṣṇa Himself also feels a greater necessity for enjoyment, and when Kṛṣṇa feels more necessity, the devotees get a greater chance to serve. So, this time is very valuable for them. Kṛṣṇa wants to enjoy more, and devotees should be busy to supply things for His enjoyment. So much so, that they won’t have any time to feed themselves.

Fasting is called upavāsa. Upa means samīpe [‘near’], to always remain [vāsa] by the side of Kṛṣṇa and supply whatever He wants. In doing so, servitors forget to take food and other things for themselves. They want to be more busily engaged in the service of Kṛṣṇa, because at this time of need, they will fetch more remuneration, more affinity for Kṛṣṇa, more grace. So, upavāsa [‘fasting’] means samīpe vāsa [‘staying near’]. And, secondarily, by fasting, we can make our body dry so that our enjoying spirit will be lessened. These are the two general explanations of Ekādaśī.

There are so many things, and everything is conscious—personal. So, Ekādaśī has her personal character. She devotes herself to the service of Kṛṣṇa, and she engages everyone accompanying her in the service of Kṛṣṇa. She does not care for food or anything else, and does not allow others in her group to take food or waste time. She keeps everyone always engaged in the service of Kṛṣṇa. The underlying meaning is that. Am I clear?

Student: Yes.

Student: Why is it then that we take some foods and not other foods?

Śrīla Śrīdhar Mahārāj: I told that. Some foods may be less injurious. Foods that are considered to be less injurious—not more exciting—have been prescribed. Also, it is mentioned in another way in Hari-bhakti-vilāsa. Some peculiar sins are fond of taking shelter in those places [foods] that we reject. Pāpa, a type of sin, is very fond of taking shelter in those plants. So, we surely want to avoid them. It is mentioned like that.


Spoken 19 February 1982.