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Chapter 18—Shri Ekadashi
One day, Lord Gaurahari went from Gundica mandira to the Jagannatha-vallabha gardens and sat amongst the flowers. The day was ekadashi. He celebrated this auspicious occasion by chanting the holy name incessantly, day and night. Present with Him were Svarupa Damodara, Ramananda Raya, Vakresvara Pandita and the other resident Vaishnavas of Shri Purusottama-ksetra, Puri.
The Lord said, "Today, all of you should refrain from eating and sleeping, and constantly chant Krishna's name. Some of you should chant japa, some of you should circumambulate the temple with prostrated obeisances and others should discuss the pastimes of Lord Balarama and Lord Krishna." Everyone became spiritually surcharged by the Lord' instructions and busied themselves with different activities, chanting, "Govinda, Govinda!" They felt intoxicated with prema.
Suddenly, Shri Gopinatha arrived from Gundica, accompanied by Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya. They were laden with Lord Jagannatha's maha-prasadam! They placed the prasadam of cooked rice, a variety of vegetables, pitha, pana, sweet rice, curd and yoghurt before the Lord. At the Lord's bidding, devotees offered respectful obeisances to the prasadam and then continued chanting the Lord's name deep into the night in an ecstatic mood of devotion , free from all material desires.
Early next morning, the devotees, begged permission from Shri Gaurahari and, went to take bath. On returning, they sat down and respectfully honoured maha-prasadam, breaking their ekadashi fast. They experienced ineffable bliss, and falling to the ground they offered obeisances to the Lord and spoke to Him in great earnestness with folded hands:
Ekadashi in Puri
"Shri Harivasara ekadashi, is considered to be the most important vrata vow of fasting. It is to be observed by maintaining complete fast and without sleeping at night. We also know that Lord Jagannatha's maha-prasadam must be respected at all times in Purusottama-ksetra. It should be honoured by eating it immediately upon receiving it. Therefore, we find ourselves in a dilemma as to how to honour prasadam on ekadashi. Please tell us unequivocally the conclusions of the scriptures on this subject in a manner that would convince even spiritual stalwarts like Lord Siva and Lord Brahma. This will dispel our disquietude."
Lord Chaitanya's conclusion
Lord Chaitanya replied, "To not observe complete fasting on ekadashi will greatly endanger one's spiritual life. Honour prasadam on ekadashi only by offering it obeisances and eating it the next day. In this way, one can easily cross this material ocean. The fast is any way over on the following day.
"All Vaishnavas, beloved associates of the Supreme Lord, are very pleased when ekadashi is properly observed by simply relishing the nectar of Lord Krishna's holy name. One should not taste anything nor should any mundane topics be discussed on Ekadashi. All physical pleasures should be proscribed. It is a Vaishnava's duty to daily honour and eat only prasadam, for he never consumes unoffered food. On ekadashi he observes complete fasting, and the next day he breaks his fast with maha-prasadam. And if, for some reason, one has to eat on ekadashi, then let the Vaishnavas take anukalpa, a light meal consisting of merely fruits, roots and milk, without grains or beans or other prohibited vegetables.
"The non-Vaishnavas gormandise without control, offering only lame excuses that they are honouring maha-prasadam. They do this on ekadashi, because they are engrossed day and night in sense enjoyment. They enjoy grains and rice on ekadashi and thereby eat the sins that enter grains on such days, disregarding the sanctity of ekadashi-vrata. You must diligently execute devotional service and respect the process of devotion. You will then surely receive the blessings of Bhakti-devi Herself. Avoid the association of non-devotees and properly observe the ekadashi-vrata by constantly chanting the holy name.
"Try to realise in your heart that there is no offence or contradiction in refusing maha-prasadam on ekadashi or any other important fast day. It is inane to observe certain spiritual disciplines and vows while neglecting others. Earnestly observe prescribed vows on designated days and timings and in an appropriate devotional manner. Shri Vrajendra-nandana, Krishna, is the Lord and ultimate goal of all vows and devotional activities, so observe all spiritual vows for His pleasure and satisfaction alone. Therefore, remember to abstain from eating, drinking and sleeping on ekadashi, and so the next day honour prasadam with full relish."
The devotees present, both from Bengal and Orissa were experiencing intense joy upon hearing the Lord speak. They chanted, "Govinda! Govinda!" in blissful appreciation. Svarupa Damodara, Ramananda Raya and other stalwarts felt ineffable exultation.
O my dear brothers! Lord Gauranga is the most valuable treasure of my heart. Worship His lotus feet, freeing yourself from duplicity. This can help you to easily cross this insurmountable ocean of nescience and experience everlasting peace, beyond anxiety and death.
Chanting the holy name and observing ekadashi-vrata are both eternal spiritual activities, hence they are on the same devotional platform. Therefore, become sincerely fixed in executing these activities.