By Danavir Goswami
[The following is an excerpt from a forthcoming volume of Sri Garga Samhita, Canto 4 Chapter 8 verses 21-23. The translations are from Kusakratha Prabhu and the purports are from Danavir Goswami…to be available at: http://www.rvc.edu/rvc_books.html]
evam snatva nara-varah
nalapet tad-dine nicams
tatha pakhandino naran
evamâthus; snatvaâbathing; nara-varahâan exalted person; krodha-lobha-vivarjitahâfree of greed and anger; naânot; alapetâshould talk; tad-dineâon that day; nicanâto degraded people; tathaâso; pakhandinahâto offenders; naranâpeople.
In this way one should bathe. On ekadasi day one should be free of greed and anger, and one should not talk to sinful people, atheists, and offenders.
This verse reminds me of a morning walk conversation, for which I was present, of 1975 in Chicago. Strolling through a city park early in the morning, one disciple among a group of about twenty mentioned to Srila Prabhupada that he had heard that Ekadasi was an inauspicious day and should be counteracted by chanting many rounds. The guru dispelled that illusion by responding that Ekadasi was indeed the most auspicious day. Then the disciple asked whether chanting twenty-five rounds was recommended for devotees on Ekadasi. The reply is here:
Prabhupada: Oh yes, Ekadasi, simply you should chant. No other business. Nirjala.
Devotee: Should they go out for preaching work?
Prabhupada: No, those who are preaching, not for them. Those who are sitting idle… (laughter) A preacher is so exalted. He hasn’t got to follow any regulation. But don’t take it.” (laughter)
Nirjala means fasting even from water. In this charming exchange, Srila Prabhupada shocked his students by saying that devotees who are engaged in preaching work such as book distribution sankirtan need not follow any other Vedic rules and regulations. Upon hearing, “He hasn’t got to follow any regulation” the students walking with him spontaneously began to laugh. Then after a poignant pause His Divine Grace delivered the sobering conclusion, “but don’t take it” meaning “but do not take advantage of it.” In other words, the preachers of Krishna consciousness should comply with Vedic principles while at the same time continuing their enthusiastic missionary work. Lord Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita:
yogo bhavati duhkha-ha
He who is regulated in his habits of eating, sleeping, recreation and work can mitigate all material pains by practicing the yoga system.
Although strictly observing Ekadasi is highly recommended in the sastras, Srila Prabhupada brought forward an even higher Vedic principle namely that of disseminating transcendental knowledge. Lord Krsna states:
ya idam paramam guhyam
bhaktim mayi param krtva
mam evaisyaty asamsayah
For one who explains this supreme secret to the devotees, pure devotional service is guaranteed, and at the end he will come back to Me.
na ca tasman manusyesu
kascin me priya-krttamah
bhavita na ca me tasmad
anyah priyataro bhuvi
There is no servant in this world more dear to Me than he, nor will there ever be one more dear. (Bhagavad-gita 18.68-9)
The spiritual master carefully chooses among the millions of Vedic injunctions those most essential for his disciples’ spiritual advancement. Moreover, as the founder-acarya of ISKCON, Srila Prabhupada’s advice is meant to be followed by all of the society’s members (present and future), for the remainder of the “golden age of Lord Caitanya.” It is said that the Krsna consciousness movement will be prominent within the ten thousand years since Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s birth (1486 AD) but after that people will become too degraded to accept Krishna consciousness.
anyams caiva duracaran
nalapet sa vrati narah
mithya-vada-ratanâto liars; caâand; evaâcertainly; tathaâso; brahmana-nindakanâto they who have offended brahmanas; anyanâto others; caâand; evaâindeed; duracaranâmisbehaved; agamya-agamaneâto illicit sex; ratanâattached; paraâof others; dravyaâthe property; apaharanâstealing; caâand; paraâof others; daraâthe wives; abhigaminahâapproaching; durvrttanâwicked; bhinna-maryadanâwho break the rules of morality; naânot; alapetâshould talk; saâhe; vratiâfollowing the vow; narahâa person.
A person who follows the vow of ekadasi should not talk to liars, offenders of brahmanas, sinners, debauchees, thieves, adulterers, and the ill-behaved and immoral.
Venturing out into society for distributing transcendental books on any day, even Ekadasi, almost guarantees contact with the regrettable types of persons mentioned in this verse. How then can such a seeming violation of this Vedic injunction be adjusted ? King Yudhisthira answers this question:
tarko ‘pratisthah srutayo vibhinna
nasav rsir yasya matam na bhinnam
dharmasya tattvam nihitam guhayam
mahajano yena gatah sa panthah
Dry arguments are inconclusive. A great personality whose opinion does not differ from others is not considered a great sage. Simply by studying the Vedas, which are variegated, one cannot come to the right path by which religious principles are understood. The solid truth of religious principles is hidden in the heart of an unadulterated, self-realized person. Consequently, as the sastras confirm, one should accept whatever progressive path the mahajanas advocate.
To illustrate this point imagine an automobile and driver approaching an intersection where a red traffic light is illuminated. The driver dutifully stops the car at the appropriate place behind the pedestrian crosswalk and waits for the light to turn green. The driver also sees a uniformed policeman standing in the middle of the street moving his arms and blowing a whistle. The policeman turns toward the car and driver, catches her attention and motions her to drive through the intersection. The driver acknowledges the policeman’s request but points her finger toward the red light so that the policeman will understand that the reason she is not driving forward is because she is obeying the traffic signal. The policeman makes a sour face, blows his whistle and more emphatically motions for the driver to proceed through the intersection. But the lady again responds by pointing directly at the red light with two forward poking motions as if to tell the policeman, “Don’t you see that I cannot go forward because the light is red?” Now the policeman becomes visibly angry, his face turns red and for the third time he motions for the driver to drive forward while stridently screeching his whistle. Nevertheless, the driver, who has never gotten a traffic violation for going through a red light, once more points to the red traffic light. The policeman walks over to the driver and vociferously says, “What is wrong with you? I have instructed you to move your car forward three times and still you sit there pointing at the red light. I know the light is red, it is malfunctioning and that is why I am out here directing traffic. It has been stuck on red for hours in all four directions. It will not turn green until it is repaired. The repair men have been called and they are coming but in the meantime I am directing traffic. (Raising his voice) Do your understand?” The driver replies, “Officer, I respect what you are trying to do but I read in the drivers’ manual that one is never supposed to drive through an intersection when the light is showing red, so I am following that. After all the law is the law, sir. I have never run a red light and I do not plan to begin now.”
In this analogy the traffic light represents Vedic injunctions, the driver represents the pious person trying to obey the scriptures, the malfunctioning of the traffic light represents the current cataclysmic age of Kali and the policeman represents God’s representative-the mahajana (perfected spiritual teacher). The policeman apparently supersedes municipal law by ordering drivers to pass through a red light but in actuality he perfectly upheld the real intent of the law. The factual purpose of automated traffic signals was meant to regulate the safe flow of moving vehicles. The poor driver, confused by apparent contradictions, stubbornly stuck to her driver’s manual without understanding the true meaning of the law. In Sanskrit parlance this is called niyama agrahah. In her mind she was the most obedient citizen but not so to the policeman, the other drivers behind her nor to the municipal court judge.
The Vedas certainly establish the importance of following Ekadasi completely, yet His Divine Grace emphasized propagation of sankirtan and the public distribution of transcendental literature over and above a strict observance of every minute detail of Ekadasi. By instructing his followers in this way, Srila Prabhupada did not minimize the importance of the Vedas or Ekadasi-rather he fulfilled the essential purpose of both. The fully-authorized saintly person extracts allusive essentials from the Vedas by accentuating one activity ahead of another.
Srila Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami stresses the quintessential activity of broadcasting the glories of the holy name:
kali-yuge yuga-dharma-namera pracara
tathi lagi’ pita-varna caitanyavatara
The religious practice for the Age of Kali is to broadcast the glories of the holy name. Only for this purpose has the Lord, in a yellow color, descended as Lord Caitanya. (Caitanya Caritamrta Adi 3.40)
In summary we say that if one can minutely execute Ekadasi and also effectively preach Krsna consciousness, then that is excellent. Nevertheless, devotees in general are advised to actively disseminate Krishna consciousness, distribute books like Bhagavad-gita and Srimad Bhagavatam, honor grainless prasadam on Ekadasi and have confidence that they are not violating Vedic principles by failing to fast from all food and drink. By such missionary service and simultaneous adherence to the ordinary observance of Ekadasi, devotees will definitely please the Lord Who fervently desires to save the drowning souls of Kali yuga. Those unable to preach in this way, should try their best to fast completely on Ekadasi, avoid talking to sinners, debauchees, thieves, adulterers, the ill-behaved, immoral, and so forth.