Aparā Ekādaśī appears during the dark fortnight, kṛṣṇa-pakṣa, in Jyeṣṭha-māsa, (May/June), to help all jīvas. She blesses and benefits the jīvas with her unconditional mercy. Otherwise, the conditioned souls are not eligible to receive anything. Acting of their own choice and desire, they fail in their many endeavors. Why? The jīvas have insufficient intelligence; their brains are small. Their ideas and conceptions are bad and useless. Their memory is unreliable. Their memory is the repository of the mundane features of this world; it is not a container of devotion. In India, the traditional Vedic culture readies them for a life of devotion. But, Western culture readies them in no such way. From one’s childhood or infancy, a person only concerns himself with the mundane things of this world. He is happy if he obtains what he wants and is sad when he is unable to obtain what he wants.
Ekādaśī-devī empowers her followers with devotion for her worshipable Lord. In the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, the life of Kardama Ṛṣi is described. He engaged in many austerities. Practicing excruciating forms of tapa, japa, and dhyāna, he would enter samādhi. Seeing his sons wander, Brahmā cleverly had them bound and arrested. How did he have them bound? Brahmā had many daughters and granddaughters; indeed, his family was large. He would arrange for the sages to marry his daughters and granddaughters. Brahmā would give the sages many gifts. Each sage didn’t marry only one lady. Rather, Brahmā arranged for them to marry four, five, or even twenty brides.
Kardama Ṛṣi was seriously engaged in his tapa and japa. Brahmā called for Devahūti. He said, “Devahūti, you must come with me.”
Brahmā told Devahūti, “Now, you must serve Kardama Ṛṣi.”
Hence, while Kardama Ṛṣi entered samādhi for ten thousand years, she duly stood by her husband’s side and protected him from any form of unseen harm. She served and helped him in many ways. After ten thousand years, Kardama returned from his internal meditation to a state characterized by cognizance of the internal and external reality and then he came to external consciousness.
Being conscious of his external conditions, Kardama said, “Devahūti, have you been here for a long time?”
“Yes. I was serving and helping you.”
Satisfied by her service, Kardama Ṛṣi asked Devahūti, “Do you have any desires that want to be fulfilled? Do you wish to receive boons?”
“Yes, I have a boon to ask from you.”
“What do you need?”
Devahūti shyly replied, “You know what I need. You know everything. Hence, what need is for me to relate my desire?”
Despite serving for many thousands of years and engaging in sādhu-saṅga and bhakti’s programs for thousands of years, Devahūti still had unfulfilled desires at the culmination of her service to her husband.
Kardama Ṛṣi asked her, “What do you need, Devahūti?”
She said, “I need a son.”
Greatly surprised Kardama Ṛṣi told her, “You haven’t changed despite undergoing austerities for thousands of years? Don’t be worried. I will beget a son from you, but on one condition. As soon as the son is born from your womb, I will retire to the forest. I will have no relation with you. Do you agree?”
Despite losing her husband’s association, from whom she derived the benefit of being in sādhu-saṅga, Devahūti didn’t change. Unrelenting, she said, “I need a son. You give me a son, and then you can enter the forest. No problem.”
Did Devahūti have love for sādhu-saṅga, bhakti, and bhajana? No. All she needed was a son. Hence, there was a big problem. Kardama Ṛṣi thought, “Alas! I engaged in austerities for ten thousand years. But, she is coercing me to enjoy with her now. How can I enjoy with her and beget a son?” Kardama Ṛṣi was greatly tensed by his wife’s proposal. He then thought about the Lord and said, “Oh God, please save me! Please protect me. Otherwise, how can I protect my yoga? I will then be a bhogī, an enjoyer. Consequently, I will lose everything. What can I do?”
Kardama Ṛṣi then thought with great determination, “If I love God, I will pray and call Him to descend in my heart. He will definitely help me. He will surely come. Why? Despite being with me for ten-thousand years, Devahūti’s nature and character didn’t change. She doesn’t follow good etiquette and principles; she doesn’t follow bhakti’s rules and regulations. She is of an enjoying nature.”
What can be done? The Ṛṣi thought about his predicament. He engaged in bhajana for thousands of years, hence, his love was only directed to God. By talking with Devahūti, Kardama Ṛṣi feared becoming distant to God. Talking, looking, thinking, and touching represent problems. Affection for another person will divide your love to the Lord and make you distant from Him. You will not love God anymore. Devahūti had no love for God; she only had love for her own enjoyment. She didn’t think about the appropriate course of action.
Kardama Ṛṣi then intently prayed to the Lord.
kṛṣṇa kahe,—‘āmā bhaje, māge viṣaya-sukha
amṛta chāḍi’ viṣa māge,—ei baḍa mūrkha
āmi—vijña, ei mūrkhe ‘viṣaya’ kene diba?
sva-caraṇāmṛta diyā ‘viṣaya’ bhulāiba
– Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā 22.38-39
Kṛṣṇa says, ‘If one lovingly worships me but in return asks for material enjoyment, he is a very great fool. Indeed, he is just like a person who puts aside nectar to drink poison. Since I am all-intelligent, why should I give this fool material happiness? Instead I shall make him take the nectar of My lotus feet and cause him to forget temporary material pleasure.’
Kṛṣṇa is very clever. He tells a devotee who is inclined to material enjoyment, “You engage in My bhajana. You stay with My devotees, but you maintain desires for viṣaya-sukha, material enjoyment. Why should I give you this material enjoyment? Although you are foolish and ignorant, I will not cheat you by giving you any form of material enjoyment. I will give you My sva-caraṇāmṛta, the nectar of My lotus feet. Hence, I will change you.”
Kṛṣṇa told the Ṛṣi, “Kardama Ṛṣi, don’t be worried. I am coming. You have promised to leave to the forest once you beget a son from your wife. Although I will be alone when you leave to the forest, I will be the object of your wife’s love. Your wife has no love for you, but she will have love for Me. I will then give her strong advice and through My words, I will perform a surgery on her and clean her heart. I will purify her of all desires. I will make her a paramahaṁsa. But, she doesn’t follow your advice; she only begs to enjoy with you. When I become her son, she will be free of all mundane desires. I will flood her heart with nectar.”
On being reassured by the Lord, Kardama Ṛṣi thought about Him day and night. Praying on the behalf of Devahūti, he beseeched the Lord, “You must please help Devahūti. It is not possible for me to help her. She cannot be changed by me. But in Your presence, it is possible for her to be changed.” When the Guruvarga pray on the behalf of someone to the Lord, He will bless the soul who the Guruvarga are praying for. Then the Guruvarga will also be merciful to the soul. Otherwise, the Guruvarga are not independent. They will not accept or reject anybody independent of the Lord’s desire.
Along with his wife and maidservants, Kardama Ṛṣi went everywhere on a celestial airplane. They travelled to many places for a period of ten thousand years. They went to hill stations, waterfalls, Gandharva-loka, and heaven. Visiting many scenic places, they would enjoy as much as Devahūti wanted. But, they were not happy and pleased. They were never satisfied. Their desires and wants would only increase. One’s desire to enjoy will not be cooled even up to his last days.
Greatly anxious, Kardama Ṛṣi thought, “What can I do?”
Kardama Ṛṣi then `told Devahūti, “If you need a son, then you must also follow another condition. You must follow Aparā Ekādaśī. Will you follow?”
Devahūti replied, “Why not? I will follow anything you have to say. But, I need a son. I will do as you instruct me to do. Indeed, I will hear everything you have to say. I respect and like you. Therefore, please be gracious and fulfill my need of having a son.”
Devahūti spoke being controlled by Brahmā’s instruction and inspiration. Devahūti said, “Yes. I will follow Ekādaśī.” Hence, Devahūti followed Aparā Ekādaśī. Kardama Ṛṣi only engaged in kṛṣṇa-kīrtana from morning to evening.
He told his wife, “Today, there is no need of any other engagements. We will go to the Himālayas, Gaṅgotrī, Yamunotrī, and the bank of the Gaṅgā and indeed, to various other places by our celestial airplane. In these secluded places, we will begin our worship of the Lord from the early morning. We will also hear His glories. For the complete day, we must follow Aparā Ekādaśī. Ekādaśī-devī will give you a good son.”
But, Devahūti didn’t know of who would come as her son. On this Aparā Ekādaśī, Kardama Ṛṣi pleased the Lord. He spoke on many of the Lord’s glories to his wife. But Devahūti paid no attention to her husband’s words; she was completely absorbed in the thought of having a baby child.
Devahūti fondly thought, “When will I take the baby on my lap? When will I kiss the baby to my heart’s content? My life will be successful when I hold the baby in my arms!” But she didn’t know what was to happen. Kardama Ṛṣi distributed Hari’s līlā from the morning, but Devahūti’s mood didn’t change. Why? Her love was reserved for her children, for her son.
Devahūti was adamant; she wanted her wish to be fulfilled immediately. She told her husband, “I would love to have a son. Bless me with one right away!”
Pacifying his wife, Kardama Ṛṣi said, “Yes, you will be blessed with a son. But, I will not give you a son; Aparā Ekādaśī will.”
This Ekādaśī is not related to this mundane world in any way. Ekādaśī-devī will give you aprākṛta, transcendental treasures. After following Ekādaśī for the complete day and night, Devahūti rested during the early morning of the next day. For the entire night and day, the couple engaged themselves in kīrtana. Kardama Ṛṣi did not give a chance for his wife’s mind to wander for even a minute. As Devahūti rested during the early morning, she found to her great surprise, a baby in her womb. She was very happy.
She thought, “I must bathe in the Gaṅgā! I must bathe in the Yamunā! My happiness knows no limit! I have a baby now.”
She told her husband of the baby’s arrival. He said, “Indeed, it is a sublime occasion. But, after ten months, I will renounce and give you up. I will not be with you and you will not be with me. I will not look at you and you will not look at me.”
After ten months, a baby of sublime beauty was born to Devahūti. But Kardama Ṛṣi ran happily away. He exclaimed, “Today, I have been liberated. I have no relation with my wife anymore.”
Bathing in the Gaṅgā, he retired to the forest. He proclaimed, “O Brahmā, I have finished my prāyaścitta, atonement. I will now engage in bhajana.”
But who was born to Devahūti? Kapiladeva, the founder of sāṅkhya-yoga was born to her. In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Kapiladeva’s advice to his mother is vividly described. He explained to his mother of how the body consisting of meat and bones comes into existence and encages the soul. He told his mother of the twenty-eight primordial elements comprising the material nature. He delineated the elements one by one; he impressed many transcendental truths in his mother’s heart. Indeed, they left an indelible impression on her heart. Why did she intently listen to what her son had to say? She had immense love for her son. She did not have the same love with others. Their advice didn’t make a mark on Devahūti’s heart. If someone with whom you have a loving relationship tells you anything, then regardless of what he intends to say, you will find his words to be very sweet and powerful. Your loved one’s words will always be remembered by you. Was Kardama Ṛṣi not knowledgeable? Indeed he was highly knowledgeable, but Devahūti paid no heed to what he said. She didn’t accept his advice; she rejected it. She only heard what her son what had to say. She didn’t spare a moment of her attention to what others had to say.
After her son was born to her, he gradually came of age. He would smile, talk, and tell her many features of the material and spiritual realm. She would eagerly listen to all that her son had to say. After continuously listening to her son, Devahūti forgot the world around her and transcended her bodily existence. She was unaware if she was properly clothed. Her hair was not braided and she didn’t know where her place of residence was. She only thought about the Lord; she forgot Kapila and Kardama Ṛṣi. She forgot her own nature; indeed, she forgot everything about her. She was now on the brahma-bhūta prasannātmā stage.
na śocati na kāṅkṣati
samaḥ sarveṣu bhūteṣu
mad-bhaktiṁ labhate parām
– Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā 18.54
One thus situated in brahma becomes fully blissful. He never laments or wants anything. Being equally disposed to all living entities, he attains devotion to Me, which is characterized by prema.
She had obtained parā-bhakti, the highest form of devotion. Hence, Ekādaśī-devī empowers her followers with transcendental potency. You must realize that by your independent endeavors, you will not know what is good and bad for you. You will not understand what is to be accepted and what it is to be rejected; you will never know what is helpful for you. You must be under the guidance of transcendental authorities. Otherwise, you will not cross māyā.
Why do ordinary people follow bhakti and Ekādaśī? To beg for mundane things. But Ekādaśī-devī, and Bhakti-devī will not give them these mundane things.
Instead, she says, “I will only give aprākṛta, transcendental help.”
kṛṣṇa yadi chuṭe bhakte bhukti mukti diyā
kabhu prema-bhakti nā dena rākhena lukāiyā
– Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Ādi-līlā 8.18)
If a bhakta asks from Kṛṣṇa for material sense enjoyment or liberation He immediately delivers it, but He keeps hidden prema-bhakti.
Kṛṣṇa tells, “I give bhukti and mukti to the undeserving. I then run away from them; I don’t give them bhakti.”
But, Kṛṣṇa also says, “I only give bhakti to the sincere. I don’t cheat them by giving them anything else.”
An instance may arise where despite being under the guidance of guru and sādhus, you find yourself to have not advanced in your devotion. You may have followed all the rules and regulations of bhakti; you may have also followed Ekādaśī. But, just like an eagle flying in the sky looks for dead bodies, you find yourself susceptible for engaging yourself in sense enjoyment. Although you followed all the limbs of bhakti, you find yourself to have not changed even a little. Your nature still hovers on the platform of māyā. You only look for objects of your enjoyment.
Looking at these objects, you think, “These objects are sweet and helpful for me. They are favourable for me. Gurudeva and Vaiṣṇavas are not as favourable. They are not my relatives. They don’t accept me; they don’t take care of me.”
On seeing a Bābājī or a Mātāji, one thinks, “He or she will take care of me. Both of us will engage in yugala-bhajana.”
Hiding in a corner, or a secret center, one engages in ‘solitary bhajana.’ Day and night, you will think of Laila and Manju. You will then think, “I am in samādhi now. Indeed, I am engaged in my services twenty-four-hours-a-day. I have no time for anything else.”
Thinking about his lover’s face, sweet talks, and bewitching smile, one thinks, “This is very tasteful and nice.” As a result, one loses his memory and has all his love divided. Consequently, he will feel much pain.
This is called, ‘deep bhajana.’ But, Aparā Ekādaśī tells her followers, “I will do an operation and surgery. I will not give anyone the chance to go the wrong way. I provide them with the support by which they will return to the right path. I will give them much energy and enthusiasm. They will never lose sight of me; they will never lose their bhajana and bhakti.”
Therefore, those who are intelligent will not cheat their own selves. They will always be surrendered.
āmi tava nitya-dāsa, jāninu e-bāra,
āmāra pālana-bhāra ekhona tomāra
baḍa duḥkha pāiyāchi svatantra jīvane,
saba duḥkha dūre gelo o-pada-varaṇe
– Ekhona bhujinu prabhu tomāra caraṇa, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura
At last I realize myself to be Your eternal servant. Now the burden of my upkeep is exclusively Yours. In my life of independence from You, I have experienced nothing but despair. However, upon accepting Your lotus feet all my distress has been cast far away.
ātma nivedana, tuyā pade kari, hainu parama sukhī
duḥkha dūre gela, cintā nā rahila, caudike ānanda dekhī
– Atma-nivedana, 1 Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura
I have become supremely joyful by surrendering myself at Your holy feet. Unhappiness has gone away, and there are no more anxieties. I see joy in all directions.
aśoka-abhaya, amṛta-ādhāra, tomāra caraṇa-dvaya
tāhāte ekhona, viṣrāma labhiyā chāḍinu bhavera bhaya
– Atma-nivedana, 2
Your two lotus feet are reservoirs of immortal nectar where one may live free from sorrow and fear. I have found peace there now and have given up the fear of worldly existence.]
What will a clever person do? He will say, “O Prabhu, I offer myself to You. You can treat me as You so desire. I don’t know what lies in my best self-interest. Anything I do by own choice points to my erring nature. I am guilty of many faults. My collection of undesirable things is immense. Not only do I suffer, many others suffer alongside me. How can my collection be good? My idea is very bad. Anything I look, touch, and take is a source of great pain for me!”
gorā pāhu nā bhajiyā mainu
prema-ratana-dhana helāya hārāinu (1)
adhane yatana kari’ dhana teyāginu
āpana karama-doṣe āpani ḍubinū (2)
sat-saṅga chāḍi’ kainu asate vilāsa
te-kāraṅe lāgila je karama-bandha phāsa (3)
viṣaya viṣama viṣa satata khāinu
gaura-kīrtana-rase magana nā hainu (4)
kena vā āchaye prāṅa ki sukha pāiyā
Narottama dāsa kena nā gela mariyā (5)
– Śrīla Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura
I did not consider worshiping Lord Gaurāṅga, but instead brought about my spiritual ruin by neglecting that treasure trove of pure love of God. I have devoted myself to useless activities, losing my real wealth and am drowning in my own trifles and actions. I gave up the association of the saintly devotees to enjoy myself in the company of the ungodly. Therefore, I am bound up by the snare of karma. I am always drinking the dangerous poison of sense gratification, thus I can never absorb myself in the blissful nectar of chanting the glories of Lord Caitanya.
“For what type of pleasure do I maintain my life?” Narottama dāsa laments, “Why do I not simply die?”
You should pray, “I am in such an unfortunate position.”
hāra boliyā, galāya parili (mana), śamana kiṅkora-sāpa
– Avatāra-sāra 4, Śrīla Locana dāsa Ṭhākura
O my mind, death is like a snake, which you put around your neck, thinking it to be a garland.
You tie a snake around your neck or body and embrace it. But, you don’t know the nature of a poisonous a snake. You play with many dangerous things although you consider them to be very sweet. How can you possibly feel well by having a snake coiled around your neck with an upraised hood? You will have your death confirmed by such recklessness. The soldiers of death will take you away from your mortal body. This is sure to happen if you continue being careless. But, you like to be reckless.
Therefore, pray to the lotus feet of Aparā Ekādaśī. Beseech her for her mercy and say, “He Devī! Dyotamānā! O most resplendent and beautiful goddess! You are an expansion of God. You give the highest opportunity to engage in the service of the Lord. Previously, I didn’t know of a way to seek you out and beg for your grace. But you are very kind. Now, I realize who you are. You are ready to bestow vraja-vāsa, vraja-bhakti, and vraja-sevā on me. But, I don’t need these benedictions. I only need a relationship with the Vraja-devīs; I desire nothing else.”
kabe gaurra-vane suradhunī-taṭe, ‘hā rādhe hā kṛṣṇa’ bole
kāṅdiyā beḍābo, deho sukha chāḍi, nānā latā taru-tale (1)
(kabe) śvapaca-gṛhete, māgiyā khaibo, pibo sarasvatī-jala
puline puline, gaḍā-gaḍi dibo, kori kṛṣṇa-kolāholo (2)
(kabe) dhāma-vāsī-jane, praṇati koriyā, māgibo kṛpāra leśa
vaiṣṇava-caraṇa-reṇu gāya mākhi, dhori avadhūta veśa (3)
(kabe) gauḍa-braja-jane, bheda nā dekhibo, hoibo varaja-vāsī
(takhana) dhāmera svarūpa, sphuribe nayane, hoibo rādhāra dāsī (4)
– Kabe Gaura-vane, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura
When, Oh when will I wander here and there, weeping under the shade of the trees and creepers along the banks of the celestial Ganges River in Navadvīpa? I will cry out “Oh Rādhe! Oh Kṛṣṇa!”, and I will completely forget about all the so-called pleasures of this material body.
When will I be able to live so simply by begging some food from the homes of the untouchables who live here and there? I will drink the water of the Sarasvatī, and in ecstasy I will roll to and fro on the banks of the river, raising a loud uproar of “Kṛṣṇa! Kṛṣṇa!”
When will I bow down to all the inhabitants of the holy land of Navadvīpa and receive a bit of their causeless mercy? I will smear the dust of the Vaiṣṇavas’ lotus feet all over my body, and I will wear the dress of a mad wandering mendicant.
When I factually observe that the transcendental lane of Navadvīpa is not different from Śrī Vraja-bhūmi, then I shall be transformed into a Vrajavāsī also. Then I will see the true form of the transcendental realm opening up before my very eyes, and I will thus become one of the maidservants of Śrīmatī Rādhārānī.]
How can we be the maidservants of Śrīmatī Rādhārānī?
choḍata dhana-jana, kalatra-sūta-mita,
choḍata karama geyāna
rādhā-pada-paṅkaja, madhu-rata sevana,
– Rādhikā-caraṇa-padma 6, Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura
Giving up wealth, followers, wife, sons and friends, and rejecting materialistic activities and speculative knowledge, you should become immersed in the sweetness of service to Śrīmatī Rādhikā’s lotus feet. This is Bhaktivinoda’s declaration.
We should pray to the Guruvarga. There is no need of anything else. We should pray, “Please don’t give me anything. Except obtaining a relationship with you, I don’t want anything else. I pray that no one steals me away from your lotus feet. Please protect me from the tricks of the unscrupulous. I hope our relationship is never broken.”
sakala janme mātā-pītā sabe pāya
kṛṣṇa guru nāhi mile, bhajaha hiyāya
– Caitanya Maṅgala, Madhya-khaṇḍa
Under ordinary circumstances one’s own father and mother are worshipable, but in every species one gets a father and mother. Far rarer is to get guru and Kṛṣṇa.
sei se parama-bandhu, sei mātā-pitā
śrī-kṛṣṇa-caraṇe yei prema-bhakti-dātā
– Caitanya Maṅgala, Madhya-khaṇḍa 11.195
The spiritual master can bestow prema-bhakti to those who have attained his mercy, therefore he is the topmost father, mother, and friend of everyone.
Since innumerable lives, you have been surrounded by innumerable parents, siblings, children, and friends. But, you will not obtain guru and Kṛṣṇa in every life. In this life you have received the knowledge of the scriptures; you also have good intelligence to practice the instructions therein. But you may also lose this chance.
Hence, pray, “He Ekādaśī-devī! Please give me good intelligence, by which I will never return to my old ways. I wish to never lose this opportunity. I don’t desire to see any relatives. God’s family is my family. His devotees are my only relatives. Or else, cheaters will come and steal me away from Your family. Then I will lose everything.”
Therefore, Ekādaśī-devī descends to bestow sat-saṅga on the sincere. The names of all Ekādaśīs have sublime meanings to them. They bestow nice opportunities and blessings on the conditioned souls to advance in their devotion. Aparā Ekādaśī blesses the jīvas with sādhu-saṅga. By her grace, God’s blessings will be on us and we will have a relationship with His family. Being empowered, we will follow in the footsteps of the Vraja-devīs.
By following the Vraja-devīs, your love will be very clean and pure. Then your life will never be affected by any form of tension, desire, and depression.
People think, “If I leave everything and run away, I will be happy.” But, this is not possible. Therefore, people have no idea of what is real and artificial. By respectfully following Ekādaśī-devī, the reality will be shown to us. She manages for us to stay continuously connected to the reality. She empowers her followers with strong energy and enthusiasm; such is the nature of her causeless help.
utsāhān niścayād dhairyāt tat-tat-karma-pravartanāt
saṅga-tyāgāt sato vṛtteḥ ṣaḍbhir bhaktiḥ prasidhyati
– Śrī Upadeśāmṛta 3
Enthusiasm, firm faith, and fortitude will be provided to her dependents. The qualities of utsāhāt (enthusiasm), niścayāt (fixed faith), and dhairyāt (tolerance) will be duly imbibed by the recipients of her grace. Tat-tat-karma-pravartanāt doesn’t refer to only God. It also includes His followers; God’s family. Their service will be obtained. Saṅga-tyāgāt refers to giving up association that is not conducive for devotion. Bad association must be rejected at once. How can it possibly be sweet? It is most bitter! You must spit at it. Sato-vṛtteḥ—one must adopt the good behavior and character of the devotees. Honesty is the best policy; by following in the footsteps of the devotees, the desire to be honest will always increase. The sky of your heart will be clean; it will not be cloudy anymore.
Then, ṣaḍbhir bhaktiḥ prasidhyati— the perfection of bhakti by these six practices will be obtained. Bhakti will be very pleasing to your heart and your happiness will increase at every moment. These moods of devotion are the essence of our lives. Ekādaśī-devī gives us the treasures of these moods. Otherwise, artificially following Ekādaśī will not do. Sometimes Ekādaśī becomes characterized by many kinds of preparations like pakoḍā, halavā, malpua, rabaḍi and fruit cream. If you pray for these foodstuffs, then what is the benefit of following Ekādaśī?
One will order, “Today is Ekādaśī, make a fruit salad preparation. Today is so and so Ekādaśī, lets prepare mango shakes, lassi, and other preparations.”
But, one doesn’t pray to Ekādaśī-devī to advance in his devotion.
goptṛtve varaṇaṁ tathā
ye ṣaḍ-vidhā śaraṇāgatiḥ
– Vāyu Purāṇa
The six types of surrender are: 1. Acceptance of that which is favourable for bhakti. 2. Rejection of that which is unfavourable. 3. Faith in Kṛṣṇa’s protection. 4. Acceptance of the Lord as one’s only maintainer. 5. Submission of the self. 6. Humility.
Do you ask, “Ekādaśī-devī, please give me the moods of śaraṇāgati?” If you don’t pray as such, then how are you practicing bhakti? What you practice is bogus. Your heart is harder than a stone. If you play on your guitar and vīṇā near a buffalo, it will not hear. Why? Its ears are not accustomed to these pleasant sounds. Instead, it is preoccupied with only filling its belly. Despite you continuously playing on your many different musical instruments near a buffalo, the plethora of different rhythms and sounds produced by these instruments will not enter its ear and touch its heart. Why? Certain receptacles are greasy; water will not go inside. Rather, all the water will drop out.
Therefore, Kapiladeva told Devahūti, “You love me because I am your son. Now, you have faith in me. I will give you advice that you must definitely follow. Do follow me.”
Devahūti replied, “Yes. My beloved son, I will follow everything you have to say.”
Hence, Devahūti sincerely followed her son’s advice. As a result, she achieved liberation without having to come across any problems. How can one have deep faith for Guru and Vaiṣṇavas? To help the souls achieve this purpose, Ekādaśī-devī appears and helps the sincere souls obtain the goal of their devotional practices. By praying to her, you will understand the transcendental reality. Hence, your life will be successful. Otherwise, your time, life, and the many appearance days of Ekādaśī-devī will fly past you and you will realize that nothing has happened. Your devotion will be checked. To properly observe Ekādaśī lies in our best self-interest.
Aparā Ekādaśī is a very special, important Ekādaśī. Some people in India have an idea that only Pāṇḍava Nirjala Ekādaśī is very important, or Utthāna Ekādaśī or Śāyana Ekādaśī are most important. They may only follow these few Ekādaśīs that they think are powerful. But all Ekādaśī have a specialty, all are very important.
One should hear these topics with sincerity and faith, and seek to cast out all doubt. If anyone has doubt, then they are out; this doubt will not let them come inside the truth. They are never coming in; harboring doubt they will always be at the boundary line, divided, and even told, “get out.” If there is no faith then this is like death. You will have no life. A faithful person always has ever-new life, new progress, new energy, new taste. Why? Faith is śakti. A faithful person doesn’t just have blind faith, but when truthful things appear for them, they have faith. This is called relation with śakti. Try to listen with faith.
Śrī Kṛṣṇa says:
apareyam itas tv anyāṁ
prakṛtiṁ viddhi me parām
yayedaṁ dhāryate jagat
Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā (7.5)
Besides the material energy, O mighty-armed Arjuna, there is another, greater energy of Mine, which manifests as the living entities who are utilizing the resources of this material, inferior nature.
There is parā-prakṛti, the superior spiritual energy of the Lord, and there is aparā-prakṛti, the inferior material energy of the Lord. In the materially conditioned state, the jīva has almost no pure knowledge and therefore they are always running and is constantly jumping into māyā-devī’s lap. Even if anyone takes them out, they go and jump back in there again. Like hungry dogs, the baddha-jīvas are continuously running for, smelling, and licking māyā’s gift of jaḍa-prakṛti, or aparā-prakṛti. They will say they have no time for anything else.
Kṛṣṇa also says:
bhūmir āpo ’nalo vāyuḥ
khaṁ mano buddhir eva ca
ahaṅkāra itīyaṁ me
bhinnā prakṛtir aṣṭadhā
– Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā (7.4)
Earth, water, ﬁre, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego – all together these eight constitute My separated material energies.
These eight things are material and mundane. These things are not you, and you are not these things. These material elements only comprise one structure, figure, a uniform; this is not you. You are a soul.
Many perform sādhana only offering this jaḍa-prakṛti unto the Lord. One sādhaka may bring a mango, another a jackfruit or banana, and think, “this is such a nice offering I am making to the Lord.” But how will God accept these mundane, material things, this jaḍa-prakṛti? Yet the mango has taste, rasa; the jackfruit and banana also have rasa, taste. But when you make this offering will you offer these subtle, finer things? If you do not offer yourself, your soul and all of your love, then you are only offering this material body made of flesh, jaḍa-prakṛti. Many sādhakas only offer some of their time, but they won’t offer their soul, or their taste of love. They may wake up early in the morning, take bath and attend maṅgala-ārati, but they never cultivate a mood of love; they do not think, “Where is my eternal lover?”
The Guruvarga gives an example; they speak about one Indian worker who goes to a Western country to earn money. He collects 1 rupee per day in his pay, and everyday he only spends 25 paisa for himself; the remaining 75 paisa he carefully saves. He resides on a simple footpath outside and eats old leftovers thrown from any hotel or motel, and takes extra caution not to spend any money unnecessarily. Many others ask him, “Why are you doing so much hard austerity?” He responds, “What can I do? I only make one rupee, and back home in my house my wife just gave birth to our son. She sends me letters telling me, ‘Oh, whenever you send money then I buy milk and give it to our son, and he smiles so beautifully, his long eyes shining. His teeth are now coming in, and from this milk he is becoming very strong.’ I hear this and I become very happy to know that my wife and children are happy. Why am I doing hard austerity? I am happily doing this for the happiness of my family.” If an ordinary person does such work for the happiness of his material family, why can’t we endeavor in our lives for the happiness of God and God’s family?
Any sādhaka may go to Gaṅgā or Yamunā in the morning and do tapa and japa, but where is my love? I am tied to one pillar; I move around from all sides, but in truth, I stay in one place. I am doing vrata and tapa for my mundane lover. Where is my love? I cannot offer this love to God? I offer some time, do parikramā, vrata, austerity, everything, but I cannot give God my love. Rather, I offer many gifts of jaḍa-prakṛti to God; I may externally offer so much paraphernalia, but these are just some material instruments, and without a finer offering of the heart, God never accepts these mundane things.
Vidurāṇī offered Kṛṣṇa banana skin, but really what was she offering? Her love. If you offer that, then God accepts. Sometimes sādhakas make so much effort to perform strong sādhana to offer only these items of jaḍa-prakṛti thinking God will be happy and pleased, but why is God taking material garbage? He wants your love.
Guru and Vaiṣṇavas also tell about one Ayurvedic doctor and his assistant who were travelling from village to village to treat many people. The assistant told his master, “O doctor, don’t go to this village. Around all four sides of the village are lemon trees, and I can see many lemon gardens near the homes as well. Anywhere there are lemon trees or lemon gardens, it means that the people are taking lots of lemon juice and therefore they will never be sick. Really, there is no need for us to enter this village because these people are healthy, and don’t have any sickness. This is guaranteed.”
The doctor reflected for a moment and said, “Yes, this is truthful. You are my partner and helper, and you certainly have a nice understanding. But you know one thing? If they are collecting a lot of lemons and constantly squeezing them, then it means that the bitterness from the lemons must also be touching their skin and going inside their bodies. Also, if they are taking lots of lemon, surely they have taken one or two seeds accidentally. Lemon is very helpful, but the seeds are completely poisonous. And the skin is also the same. The skin of the lemon is also disturbing to one’s skin. Lemon juice must be taken very carefully. No skin should come inside the juice, or should rub onto one’s body. Sometimes people are pressing and rubbing the lemons before cutting and squeezing them, but really one should just turn the lemon inside out and then take out all the juice. Not one piece of the lemon skin should go inside. I’m sure these people are by accident taking this lemon skin, and therefore they must be sick. Let’s go here, surely they need our care.”
When the Ayurvedic doctors entered the village they saw that many people had itchy skin problems; others had hair that was falling out; and others had eye problems and leg problems. The doctor said, “Look I’m sure these people are steaming the lemons or making pickle, or mixing lemon with sugar or other things and therefore they are sick. Pure, fresh lemon is helpful for the whole body. But they cannot take pure lemon juice, they mix it with other things and thus suffer.”
Similarly, Baladeva Prabhu has come to us who have no ātmā-jñāna, no knowledge of the soul. The soul should be offered; our pure spiritual love should be offered – it mustn’t be mixed and contaminated by any other love. One may claim, “I have already offered myself.” But what have you offered? Your body is here in the temple, here in the āśrama near Guru, but where are you? Are you even staying here for one minute? Your mind is constantly running to māyā’s playground.
Really, the baddha-jīvas have no knowledge of the soul, or how to make their soul a pure offering for God. Aparā Ekādaśī’s speciality is that she gives soul knowledge, ātmā-jñāna, and knowledge of the Absolute Truth, the true reality, tattva-vastu-jñāna, and guides the sādhaka how to become fixed in this.
Pure cow’s milk is like a tonic for mind, body and soul – it builds the finer tissues of the brain to receive elevated pure knowledge, and if it’s received from the cow with respect and love, and first offered to the Lord, then it is purely dharmika and can connect one deeply to God. So many sādhus have maintained themselves by go-rasa alone. In the Western countries however, and even in many places within India now, milk is violently stolen from the merciful mother cow without any love or respect for her. Thus the milk becomes contaminated. These baddha-jīvas are cruel and ignorant; they use the cow only for her material gifts and don’t honor her as sacred, they don’t recognize the inherent love the cow holds as a universal mother. This is the real offering of mother cow – her love – which comes in the form of her milk. But greedy, blind baddha-jīvas only see the cow is offering a gift of jaḍa-prakṛti and therefore they exploit her, missing everything beneficial she has to offer. The cow is so helpful; a mother is naturally helpful. But when this violent, impersonal process for taking the mother cow’s milk is followed, then this milk is like poison – how can it be considered to contain any love in it? It will not have the purifying effect.
Similarly, we are soul, and we possess a hidden wealth of pure love inside us, which yearns to be offered to God. We should not be covered by ignorance and only offer external gifts of jaḍa-prakṛti to God, but we should know the value of the soul’s love inside us, and offer that. We should churn that love out of our hearts through the process of pure bhakti, and thus make this pure love alone our offering. All we give to God must be done with sanctity, respect, and all our heart and soul. We must give ourselves.
Now, I am soul. I am not body. If I offer only this body to God, it’s useless because after some time this body is anyhow going into the fire, or will be given to water, in any river, or to the earth in a graveyard. These useless material things – if offering or not offering – this is nothing. Currently you cannot understand how to offer your soul. But this soul must be offered, and therefore Ekādaśī-devī will give you strength and knowledge for how to offer your very soul. This soul’s love is the point; it is authentic, as it is, it holds the reality.
A ripe, tasty papaya may be quite large, but if anyone collects the papaya’s essence, it is much less, perhaps only a palm-full, a fraction of the whole fruit. Also, after touching this essence, one will consider all other parts of the papaya as useless. Similarly, we have a big, big body, but my essence is soul; I am soul. To receive soul food, soul service; to understand how to use this soul for loving God and how to attain the soul’s own svarūpa-siddhi – for this Aparā Ekādaśī-devī has come. But we don’t understand this deeper purpose of Ekādaśī’s appearance. We think Ekādaśī is only for fasting nirjala, day and night not eating and sleeping, for following some external rules and regulations, but what will come to you if you have no knowledge of what Ekādaśī is really distributing? This Aparā Ekādaśī will give us knowledge of the soul, and we must pray to her for this. Therefore, have no relation with this body, no connection or affection. But how does this bodily attachment leave us? How can we give this up and renounce everything? With this prayer in our hearts we fast – fasting meaning today I will not give any mundane thing to my body and mind, only I will nourish my soul with the shower of bhakti-rasa, vraja-rasa. Then this soul will get its own svarūpa. Then Ekādaśī-devī will give the soul its own eleven senses and one will be very strong and never lost. And only after this is Kṛṣṇa’s sevā possible.
Now, I’m going with this body for God’s service but it’s not possible. One person says, “I am God’s servant.” And when God asks them, “Oh, you are My servant?” They reply, “Yes Prabhu. I am serving You.” God says, “Then will you day and night stand here and run this fan for Me?” They eagerly agree, but after they are fanning for one hour, two, three, four, then they reluctantly ask, “Prabhu I will run the fan for You, but can I sit?” After this then they say, “Oh Prabhu, my hand has so much pain. My legs and entire body have pain. Can I sleep and rest?” Then how can they say they are God’s servant? They are servants of their body. After half an hour, the sevaka says, “Oh a snake is coming now,” and runs away.
For distributing the soul’s service, this Ekādaśī-devī is coming and giving the eleven spiritual senses and giving souls capacity to drink this vraja-rasa, bhakti-rasa, pure bhakti, and making them very strong. Then you are forever young, regardless of your bodily state; you are then nitya-kiśora, kiśorī and engaged in nitya-sevā. To illuminate this pure thinking, Aparā Ekādaśī has come.
In following Ekādaśī it is only an external consideration to fast nirjala, to not sleep at night or speak during the day (mauna-vrata). But this is physical. If following in an internal way, then one will pray to Ekādaśī-devī, “How can I get my soul’s eternal knowledge and pure love? How will my soul’s love increase more and more until I can completely offer all to God and He will accept?” God does not say, “Give Me one enormous watermelon and I will be happy. Give Me a huge banana and lots of apple juice, and I will be happy.” No. Rather He checks, “How much love do you have for Me?” Therefore, in the Rāya Rāmānada Saṁvāda it is told:
premṇaiva bhakta-hṛdayaṁ sukha-vidrutaṁ syāt
yāvat kṣud asti jaṭhare jaraṭhā pipāsā
tāvat sukhāya bhavato nanu bhakṣya-peye
– Caitanya Caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā 8.69
Rāmānanda Rāya said, “As long as there is hunger and thirst within the stomach, different sorts of food and drink make one feel very pleased. Similarly, when Kṛṣṇa is worshiped with pure love, the different activities performed in the course of that worship make the heart of the bhakta melt in transcendental happiness.”
Duryodhana arranged many preparations as offerings for Kṛṣṇa, but Kṛṣṇa did not take anything.
A fruit will have sweetness, and among different fruits there are different varieties of sweetness, varieties of tastes; this is called rasa. Devotees will each make different preparations with different tastes to offer to Kṛṣṇa. Some offer milk by making it very thick, making rabari; some give burfi, and some give a laḍḍu. It is has all come from the same milk but from their loving offering, the tastes are different. That taste is what you offer. Unfortunately, many devotees are greedy and also think, “When will this offering come back to me and I will taste it?” But we should not think like this when making any offering.
Everyday, Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī would make many offerings which he cooked himself, with his soul body, as he was absorbed in meditation. He made delicious sweet rice and nicely offered to Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa, but he never thought to taste it himself; he only desired for Kṛṣṇa to taste it, and for the Vraja-devīs to taste it. But one day by force, holding onto his hands, Śrīmatī Rādhārānī ordered, “Give him! Give him! Let him taste how he is making this sweet rice so cooling, and how Kṛṣṇa is tasting this. Give him! Why should he not taste?” On that day of Rādhārānī feeding him this khīra, by evening time his stomach became big and fluffy and he could hardly carry his own body. Now he became sick. An Ayurvedic doctor came to take his pulse, and upon doing so announced, “Oh, you are eating almonds.” All the Vrajavāsīs who knew dāsa Gosvāmī defended him, saying, “No. He only ever takes buttermilk, never anything more.” On the doctor’s repeated request, they asked dāsa Gosvāmī, “Bābājī, are you taking almonds?” And dāsa Gosvāmī replied shyly, “Yes, in the morning time I made khīra with many rich ingredients like cashews, raisons, and almonds and gave to Kṛṣṇa and the Vraja-devīs. Then by force they all put this khīra prasāda in my mouth, and now my stomach is full.”
The material body cannot tolerate these aprākṛta, transcendental objects. That Ayurvedic doctor gave medicine to Dāsa Gosvāmī and then he became restored to health.
prākṛta vastu nahe prākṛta-gocara
veda-purāṇete ei kahe nirantara
– Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya-līlā 9.194
Perception of spiritual objects is not within the range of the material senses and contemplating them is beyond capacity of the mind. The Vedas and Purāṇas proclaim this again and again.
The soul is aprākṛta, God’s part and parcel. How will this soul become strong? First as a soul who is residing inside this physical body I will follow rules and regulations and take training. By faithfully following then soon I will rise above the body, leave the bodily platform, and be without material body; I will serve exclusively with my soul body.
So this material taste of fruit or water adds to the bodily consciousness. From overexerting the sense of taste one may get a big elephant body with which he can eat more and more, but really where is the elephant is arrested? With the sense of touch. If any lady elephant comes and touches the big elephant then the elephant delights, “ahhhh, life is successful,” and he forgets everything. These objects of the senses, rūpa (form), rasa (taste), gandha (scent), śabda (sound), sparṣa (touch) arrest the baddha-jīvas in different bodies. A firefly is flying in the sky watching light and fire, and running towards this form. A fish will eat anything, they don’t know if it’s poisonous, or if it’s a hook, and he dies. A heron deer will hear a nice sound, śabda, a nice flute song, and will forget everything and run toward that sound then a hunter will cut and kill him.
For rūpa, rasa, gandha, śabda and sparṣa each living entity has attachment, but humans, man and woman, they have attachment for all five. How can anyone cross this attachment? Therefore, these attachments must be offered to God. And who is teaching this process? Ekādaśī-devī. But most don’t know how she has come, or why she has come; they may not even know that as a mother she has come. Mother is bringing very nice things, but some tell her “Get out! Why are you coming here? You don’t know this is my sleeping time? Now I am resting; now I am watching entertainment. Why have you come?” But a mother says, “I am giving you very nice things today.” But still they tell her, “No need – you get out. I am busy now.” They cannot glorify their eternal mother. Ekādaśī-devī’s glories should be heard and broadcast, and then some may try to really understand, follow, and respect her. On Ekādaśī day, there is no other business.
Mahārāja Ambarish was a big king but he had no palace, rather he lived very simply and practiced bhakti. One day before Ekādaśī he would invite all to Mathurā, arrange a big pandal, and start kīrtana, yajña and nice harikathā.
If we are lucky, we will use all eleven senses and give them to Ekādaśī-devī, then she will give this pure knowledge, which can be compared to protein for the soul. All Ekādaśīs are different, with different names. You may think if you follow one Ekādaśī or all, it’s all the same result, but no. In one day it is not possible for full surgery, full treatment, or to be completely cleaned. Thus Ekdasi-devī extends her service to the jīvas and after fifteen days, she again next appears, and continues to run her special services. Each Ekādaśī’s service is not the same, but they are all helping the soul. Many types of service and training are necessary for the soul.
Aparā Ekādaśī manifests during the time of Keśava-vrata, and Candana-yātrā. Badri-Nārāyaṇa is now giving darśana in the Himālayas, opening His gate for thousands of people who are daily coming to Him. After this will come snāna-yātrā, but actually, before snāna-yātrā comes, for the fifteen days leading up to the festival, there will be a secret candana-yātrā inside the Jagannātha mandira and this is called, kuñja-sevā. That sevā is not open for everybody. Only Jagannātha’s intimate sevakas, the dayitā-patis are secretly giving candana and serving Him during this time.
Mahāprabhu’s associates, Hiraṇya and Jagadīśa Paṇḍitas, invited all the bhaktas on Ekādaśī and started big saṅkīrtana and also arranged for many decorations, flowers and bhoga. So much bhoga would be offered for the appearance of Ekādaśī-devī. Śrīla Gurudeva also started Ekādaśī programs like this in Mathurā. He would instruct different devotees, “Hey, with your group do kīrtana in this area; with your group go to that area; and your group should be in this area. And here in the temple will be continuous kīrtana.” Then in the afternoon time, around two-three o’clock, all would begin a big saṅkīrtana festival all throughout Mathurā. Many preparations of bhoga would be offered to the Deities and Ekādaśī-devī in Mathurā.
If anyone becomes dry by fasting, like a dry pickle and mango, and thus cannot chant but only sleep; if they have no strength to read or hear harikathā, or to perform kīrtana, then this is useless. Therefore, Guru and Vaiṣṇavas say, “No. kīrtana and harikathā are the most important of bhakti’s limbs in the Ekādaśī program. Follow this.” If anyone is strongly following, then Mahāprabhu accepts all bhoga they offer. So Hiraṇya and Jagadīśa Paṇḍitas who lived many kilometers from Koladvīpa, respected all the appearance days of Ekādaśī-devī. We should also respect and pray to follow this Aparā Ekādaśī in the same way.