Some Misconceptions About Ekadasi Fasting

Full lecture audio, this passage starting about 33:55

Reading from Bhaktivedanta Academy Study guide: “Kṛṣṇa and Balarāma welcomed Akrūra in a way just befitting his exalted position.”

HH BVPS Maharaja: So, according to his position then They did it in that way.

Reading from Bhaktivedanta Academy Study guide: “Srila Jiva Goswami elaborates: ‘Balarama was the knower of Vaishnava dharma, how to treat devotees, He knew how to welcome the devotees. It was the Dvadasi, time for breaking the fast, and especially Vaishnavas should be properly respected at that time. Balarama acted to teach the common people. He made Akrura pleased.'”

Mataji (1): Maharaja, on Dvadasi we may break the fast in the morning, but he has reached there in the evening.

HH BVPS Maharaja: Achha? [Laughter] See, if you are doing the… Means, this makes sense in the context of if you are doing the ‘full monty’ of Ekadasi vratas. I think, it was General Montgomery, when he used to have these training sessions, when he would run them himself, they were very, very intense, in the matter of running and whatever else they had to do. So when he was going to be there, then they would refer to that session that he is going to run, as that it is going to be a full training session, so it was a ‘full monty’. Does it make sense?

So here then when you are dealing with the Ekadasi in this respect, then from the day before, on the Dasami, you eat lunch, you eat your lunch nicely and all that, but after that you don’t eat again. You drink water, you do all those things like that, you take rest on time and everything like that, because then when you get up in the morning, then you are not going to eat anything. If it’s a regular Ekadasi, you will drink water, but if it’s not, if it’s a Nirjala, you won’t drink water. So then that will go through the whole day, they will stay up all night being awake, then the next morning then you break the fast, either with just water, or water and some grain, but that doesn’t mean you… [Laughter] Yeah, you just break the fast. Then there will be something either at noon, but in this case, as he is referring here, is you can’t… See, the other point of Dvadasi, or the Dvadasi vrata in this whole par is, you can’t sleep until the sun goes down. Now, if you eat a big meal at noontime or in the morning, what’s going to happen that you’ve been up all night? So, therefore, then in that case the big meal would be in the evening. So you have very small in the morning, like just a grain or something to break, then have something light at noon, and then the full in the evening. That way then after that you can take rest. So in the context of that full consideration, then you can see why they would mention it in this way.

For us, we have already eaten all the Maha left from the day before as soon as Mangala-arati gets over. And that’s if we weren’t the ones sneaking off before that and that we actually went after Mangala-arati and got something. The others left half way through, and they ate most of it, at least all the good stuff. [Laughter]

Mataji (2): Are there still people who are following that?

HH BVPS Maharaja: Are there still people who are following that? The part of not eating and staying up all night, that devotees are doing. But the Dasami and the Dvadasi, not really. I know Bhakti Caru Maharaja would follow the first half of the day on the Dvadasi, but taking lead from the Vrajavasis, that they would break the fast with drinking a huge amount, it’s like liters and liters of water and milk mixed together, like half-half. So, one, you could drink a lot and it would hydrate the body, but the thing about milk when it’s taken in a great amount is that milk in general will remove impurities from the body. Because when you fast then all the impurities go into the digestive system, and so then having all that in the system then they will drink a huge amount of this water and milk, like 2-3 liters worth, that kind-of thing, and then it will collect all the poisons that are there in the system and it will all be removed from the system, so that’s why you don’t want to get involved in too many other things before lunch. Then he would have a regular lunch. But whether they would follow the no sleeping or this or that, that I don’t know. But it actually starts from the day before. So, basically, you could say, it’s a 48 hour [fast] or even more. Does it make sense?

Mataji (1): Maharaja, may the Nirjala be starting from Dasami…. And on Nirjala Ekadasi especially devotees would mention that we should get up at midnight, 11:30, and then…

HH BVPS Maharaja: Get up and midnight, 11:30?

Mataji (1): It is in the month, usually May-June when the mangoes are available, and we should drink lots of mango juice and mango milkshake…

HH BVPS Maharaja: Lots of mango juice and mango milkshake?

Mataji (1): …to get the strength to perform the Nirjala Ekadasi, that is their…

HH BVPS Maharaja: Okay. So and then you are supposed to finish all these before the loudspeakers all go on and they start calling ‘Allahu Akbar’? [Laughter] Because that’s exactly what they do. [Laughter] So just go ahead, knock me out, name me one traditional brahmana, smarta family that does a Nirjala fast by getting up at midnight the day before and doing that.

Mataji (1): Not smartas, they are devotees, you know…

HH BVPS Maharaja: But I am talking about, they didn’t get this from the brahmanas, they got this from the Muslims. That’s my point. Why would we get up at midnight and eat? Why not eat before you go to bed?

Mataji (1): Because twelve o’clock the day begins, so you have a full stomach…

HH BVPS Maharaja: The day begins from what? So why do you have to eat at midnight, what’s wrong with eating normally at 8-9 o’clock or something?

Mataji (1): During that time they switch… [Laughter]

HH BVPS Maharaja: What does it got to do with anything? Why does it say… Hari Bhakti Vilasa says that you are only supposed to eat at lunch and not at eat at dinner before a big fast? Because when you eat more at a closer time like that, then when the sun comes up in the morning, suddenly you have this intense hunger in your stomach that then you got to live with for many hours before it finally goes away. So, but eating the big lunch, you know, full lunch, not kill-yourself-lunch, and then drinking water and stuff like that and in the evening can be something very light, but it’s not a meal as such, then you are going to not feel hungry the next day because the body would have already adjusted. So, therefore, the day goes very nicely, it’s not the volume of what food you eat, it’s whether you feel hungry or not.

So their idea, ‘If I eat more I will feel less hungry,’ but because the stomach is working, then it’s working to try to digest everything that they ate at midnight that they shouldn’t have eaten at midnight. And then suddenly when it digests that, it’s still working and then what do you have? An intense hunger. So to avoid that, the stomach has already digested, you’ve gone to sleep, and so the stomach is just, is resting. So then when you get up in the morning you won’t feel hunger. That’s the system. This getting up in the midnight, that’s something that they learned from their friends without mustaches, but having beards. [Laughter]

Prabhu (1): Generally, this fast on a Nirjala is a big thing waking up at midnight to…

HH BVPS Maharaja: But where has this come from? I’ve never heard of this before, no one does it here in Bengal, no one does it in Vrindavan. This is the first time that I hear, and it’s suddenly over in that Western side of India that I’ve heard of this. But what does it have to do with… And they are saying that, but that’s for a civil day. The civil day starts at midnight. The lunar day or the solar day will start from the sunrise. You know what I am saying? So when you get up in the Brahma-muhurta, that’s when your vrata starts.

Mataji (2): So you have to have eaten before that. [Laughter]

HH BVPS Maharaja: Not if you’ve gone to sleep. Because they’ve gone to sleep, then they have gotten up, that’s their…

Mataji (2): if I would be there I would have gotten up earlier instead of midnight, like 2-3 and then eat.

HH BVPS Maharaja: No, but then you can’t. Once you get up then it starts the next day. The vrata starts when you get up.

Mataji (2): Then I go to sleep again.

HH BVPS Maharaja: So when they get up at midnight, that’s when they start. Will they go back to bed after that?

Mataji (2): Of course.

Prabhu (1): Put alarm clock.

HH BVPS Maharaja: Wow, that is the best.

Mataji (1): So they said, you could sleep till 3…

HH BVPS Maharaja: Yeah, it’s just like trying to technically see how far you can cheat and so you don’t feel that you are cheating. It’s just like what is… I don’t understand the reality of this. And what does it have to do with mangoes? What do they do in winter? There is no mangoes.

Mataji (1,2): There is no Nirjala in winter.

HH BVPS Maharaja: Oh, I see, it’s because they like that and because their senses have been functioning for so long and they are freaking out, so if they… But do they break the fast with mangoes? Why don’t they break the fast with mangoes if they like mangoes? So because if you eat so much mango at that time, then what about all the heat? The Nirjala, generally, I don’t know why, happens to be the hottest day of the year, somehow or another it’s always the hottest day, so then they are going to have stomach full of that?

Mataji (1): Because the logic is that heat brings the heat down… [Laughter]

HH BVPS Maharaja: Yes! Again, from our brothers. You wear wool out on the desert. [Laughter] Okay. At least somebody likes the twelve tribes that got lost…

This may be a local custom, but if you ever try to propagate it around the world, there will be opposition. We’ll make sure of it. In other words, if this is something that a few people do because they think, they like doing it… But if you start saying that this is a standard, then we’ll have to point out how it in no way, shape or form is a standard. It’s just very neophyte kind-of ways of dealing with vratas.

The whole mood of the vrata is that it’s about Krishna, but here it’s just all about their inconvenience of fasting. So better they not fast. Better they just get up in the morning because they slept properly at night, they are not… Their stomach is full, they didn’t have a broken sleep, get up, chant all their rounds very nicely… Better to get up early, chant some rounds, do all that and then at times when they get hungry, then just eat mangoes all day. I think they will get more spiritual benefit. Because, otherwise, why make up religion when you already have such a nice religion? There is no need. It’s not part of the vrata, Sanatana Goswami doesn’t mention it, so it’s not a recommendation. Does that make sense? Also, why they are using the civil days as the thing, since when does midnight make the difference? It’s sunrise that makes the difference. So a tithi is a combination between the solar day and the lunar day, it has nothing to do with the civil day.

Prabhu (2): Maharaja, the essence when such problems is that ‘We have our culture, and this Prabhupada and ISKCON, you have their culture, so, yeah, we have our things and you should not… We are Bengalis, or from other parts of India, so, yeah, we come to ISKCON, we take initiation from there, but we have our culture also, we do our own…’

HH BVPS Maharaja: Well, that’s all right as long as they are only eating Alfonso mangoes. [Laughter] If they eat any other kind of mango then I’ll say it’s bogus.

(From Lecture on Srimad Bhagavatam, Canto 10, Vedanta Caksus course, 4th December 2017, Bhaktivedanta Academy, Sridham Mayapur)

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