Found in Sanga, Sanga 2002.

Ekadasi: The Day of God

August 17th, 2002 | No Comments

Q. I am due to have my first child on Suddha Ekadasi, which falls on August 18, 2002. Is this considered auspicious? We are followers of Srila Prabhupada so I would like to name him Abhay. Do you think this is appropriate?

A. Ekadasi is auspicious for Vaisnavas. It is also known as Harivasara, “The day of God.” Abhay means “fearless.” I think it is a nice name for a boy. It also describes the nature of Krishna’s cowherds. They are absolutely fearless. Under the shelter of Krishna’s lotus feet his sakhas exhibit this fearlessness.

Q. Many people tell me that the birth of a child is impure or dirty. They say that according to Hindu teachings for the first six days after birth the child is impure and for the first forty days the mother is considered dirty and can do no prayer.

I have done everything I can to ensure that my child is exposed to as much spiritual experience as possible while he is in the womb. I chant the maha-mantra and read Bhagavatam aloud every day, attend the Sunday temple program, and play bhajans for the child throughout the day. My child was also conceived in the month of Kartika. Surely, being exposed to all this before he is born means that my child will be more pure than most people. So can you give me an explanation why he and I will be considered impure once he is born?

A. The purity or lack of it surrounding childbirth has nothing to do with spiritual purity. By your activities you are helping to insure your child’s spiritual purity, which will not be affected by his birth in any way. The concerns your friends have voiced are with regard to material purity and religious considerations (ritualistic purity), not spiritual ones.

There is no restriction whatsoever regarding the chanting of Krishna nama in kirtana. Even if one is ritually impure, he or she can chant the holy name of Krishna and benefit personally while simultaneously benefiting others. Please continue chanting Krishna nama and teach your child to do the same.

Q. Devotees are supposed to follow the principle of “no intoxication.” Is there both a strict and a not-so-strict interpretation of this principle? In other words, sometimes I drink coffee at work to help me get through 24-hour shifts and I read letters where Prabhupada said that supporters who don’t live in the ashrams (life members) could drink tea. What about coffee, chocolate, and green tea; are they are not mind-altering substances? I also heard that Prabhupada sometimes used snuff.

Please give me your understanding of the “no intoxication” principle as it relates to non mood-altering chemicals that may be of a medicinal benefit.

A. Guru and sastra extol the virtues of common sense. When they speak against intoxication, this does not include the application of otherwise intoxicating drugs when used for medicinal purposes. Coffee and green tea are not good for the body or mind in the long run, but their occasional use at times for practical purposes will not affect one’s bhakti. Yes, Srila Prabhupada sometimes used snuff medicinally.

Q. Why are eggs not considered vegetarian? In the egg there is no fetus.

A. Eggs are not considered vegetarian because eggs are a form of flesh and blood.

Q. I came across a list of standards dealing with foodstuffs to abstain from on Ekadasi. I found that many devotees simply avoid beans and grains on Ekadasi, and that many items on the list to abstain from like cauliflower, broccoli, salads, etc. are consumed by some devotees on Ekadasi. What standard did Srila Prabhupada follow?

A. Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada did not follow the Ekadasi standard published on the list you mentioned. He did, however, recommend that proper observance of Ekadasi involves fasting and perhaps eating fruits, roots, and milk at night. Many members of various Gaudiya Math branches, who most likely learned it from Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura Prabhupada, follow the standard you asked about.

A student of mine, Brghumuni dasa, has recently published a book on Ekadasi that may be helpful to you. Entitled Dearest of Visnu, it is a translation of all the relevant sections of Hari-bhakti-vilasa on Ekadasi. It also includes Sanatana Goswami’s commentary, Dig Darsini Tika. This is the most authoritative book in print on the observance of Ekadasi.

Q. Who are exempted from fasting on Ekadasi?

A. Hari-bhakti-vilasa only exempts from fasting on Ekadasi children under eight and adults over eighty, as well as those who are ill, and they are to eat only on the evening of Ekadasi. Permissible foods are limited to the five products derived from cows, fruits, sesame, and roots. Standards for observing Ekadasi found in Hari-bhakti-vilasa are very strict.

Q. Could you provide sastric reference on why there is an Ekadasi feast on Gaura Purnima, the appearance day of Lord Caitanya, and other holy days which don’t fall on Ekadasi? Is this practice specific to our line or common to all Vaisnava sampradayas?

A. Actually, the tithis (astrologically calculated times) commemorating the appearance of God are to be observed by worship, and worship is to be done before eating. Therefore eating, which principally involves taking grains, should be done following the tithi and usually this means on the following day. Taking food or honoring prasada that does not consist of grains, as done on Ekadasi, is somewhat of a concession and perhaps a practical consideration as well, as feasting directly following fasting is not the best practice. You may find more information in Hari-bhakti-vilasa, and the method for observing Krishna Janmastami is discussed in Sat-sandarbha.

Q. Something is troubling my mind. In one statement from scripture the idea is presented that eating grains on Ekadasi is equivalent to killing a cow with the implied threat that anyone who does so is subject to the same karmic penalties as one faces for cow-killing. It seems inconceivable that this can be considered an “objective truth” in any way, shape, or form. Since this falls within the purview of the material world it must be verifiable. Can you shed some light on this?

A. Many Puranas make strong statements like this for the purpose of stressing the importance of observing Ekadasi and other such vows. Often the scriptures make these kinds of statements to motivate persons to follow vows out of fear for what will happen to them if they do not. Fear is the most basic motive for serving God, followed by prospect, duty, and love.

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