What are the rules for fasting on Ekadasi? How to observe Ekadasi? Can we accept Mahaprasada on an Ekadasi. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu answers all these questions and teaches us by His own example.
(The Following is an excerpt from Srila Jagadananda Pandita’s ‘Sri Prema Vivarta‘)
How to Observe Ekadasi?
One day Lord Gaurahari left the Gundicha temple to sit in the Jagannatha Vallabha gardens. It was the auspicious day of Ekadasi. He spent the whole day and night chanting the holy name of Krishna.
Accompanying the Lord were Swaroop Damodara, Ramananda Raya, Vakreshwar Pandita and other residents of Sri Kshetra (Jagannatha Puri). The Lord instructed them on how to observe Ekadasi. He said, “Avoid sleeping and eating. Chant the holy name of Krishna with an undeviating mind.
Some of you should chant Japa (chant holy name on beads), some of you offer your prostrated obeisances (unto the deities), while some of you recite the glorious pastimes of Krishna and Balarama”. The devotees fell wherever they were and chanted “Govinda! Govinda!”. They were overwhelmed with divine love.
Just at that moment, Gopinatha Acharya, Tulasi Padicha and Sarvabhauma Bhattacharya brought Maha-Prasada from the Gundicha temple. They brought rice, vegetables, pitha (pancakes), panna (lassi), sweet rice, yogurt, curd and placed it before Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
On the Lord’s order, all of them offered their prostrated obeisances and offered prayers unto the Mahaprasada. They passed the entire night, chanting the Lord’s holy name and being overwhelmed with divine love.
Placing the Lord’s instructions on their heads, after having completed their morning bath, the devotees broke their ekadasi fast by honoring (eating) the Mahaprasada. With blissful hearts and folded hands, the devotees then made the following appeal at the feet of the Lord (Chaitanya Mahaprabhu).
Can we accept Mahaprasada on an Ekadasi?
“The crown jewel of all rituals is the day of Ekadasi (also known as Harivasara – the day of Lord Hari) when one is supposed to fast and stay awake all night. We also know that in Sri-Kshetra, Lord Jagannatha’s Prasada should be honored at all times and should be eaten as soon as it is received.
We live in the Sri-Kshetra and we are fearful owing to this dilemma (to fast or not to fast on Ekadasi). So kindly give us clear instructions in this regard (rules for fasting on Ekadasi). The Vedic scriptures are nothing but Your (Lord Gauranga) instructions that are obeyed by the likes of Lord Brahma and Shiva. Kindly dispel our uncertainty in this matter”.
Rules for Fasting on Ekadasi – Explained by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu
Lord Chaitanya said, “Failing to observe the vow of Ekadasi endangers one’s devotional life. Instead, if one worships the Mahaprasada (on Ekadasi day) and eats it the following day, he can easily cross over this predicament as the tithi (occasion) of Ekadasi always expires the following day.
On the day of the Ekadasi, the devotees of the Supreme Lord take great pleasure and satisfaction, in relishing the nectar of Krishna’s holy name. They do not taste anything else and do not engage in any mundane discussion (apart from discussing the name and the glories of the Supreme lord). They reject all other forms of enjoyment.
Honoring Mahaprasada (remnants of Lord Vishnu) is the daily chore of a Vaishnava (devotee of Lord Vishnu). He never eats anything but Prasada (offered food). But he fasts on this auspicious occasion of Ekadasi (Harivasara) and accepts Prasada while breaking the Ekadasi fast, on the following day.
Vaishnavas should understand that non-grain Prasada is the only acceptable supplement on Ekadasi. The non-Vaishnavas simply enjoy day and night using Prasada as an excuse. They enjoy grains and rice on Ekadasi and thereby associate with sin personified. These non-devotees disregard the sanctity of Ekadasi-Vrata (vows of Ekadasi) by not obeying the rules for fasting on Ekadasi.
You should honor the process of devotional service and respect devotional science. Only then will you be able to achieve the blessings of Bhakti devi (the goddess of devotion). Abandon the company of non-devotees, and observe the vows of Ekadasi by incessantly chanting the holy name of the Supreme Lord.
You should realize in your heart that honoring Mahaprasada remnants of the Lord and observing the vows of Ekadasi do not contradict each other.
Only a fool obeys certain devotional disciplines and neglects the rest. Know this for sure.
Earnestly observe each vow in accordance to its place, time, rules and manner.Lord Krishna is the ultimate goal of all vows and devotional activities. Observe whatever devotional practices please Him.
On the auspicious day of Ekadasi, sacrifice your sleeping and eating. Blissfully savor Mahaprasada and other remnants of the Lord, the following day”.
Hearing this, the Vaishnavas present jubilantly chanted ‘Govinda!’ and offered their prostrated obeisances. Swaroop Damodara, Ramananda Raya, and other devotees from Bengal and Orissa felt very blissful.
O, brother! Lord Gauranga is the treasure of my heart. By serving him honestly and sincerely, you shall be able to cross over the ocean of material existence. Your mind and body shall become calm.
Understanding that the service unto the holy name and observance of the vows of Ekadasi are eternally one, you should become fixed in sincerely executing both of them.