September 11 2008 – Ekadasi and half day fast for Lord Vamanadeva’s Appearance

                                                Lord Vamanadeva                        fasting

My godbrother Vaisesika prabhu, stalwart book distributor from California, sent me this inquiry about ekadasi fasting a few days ago:

“Seems there is some confusion amongst our newer devotees here caused by a visiting devotee preaching that one must avoid cabbage on Ekadasi, otherwise one has not followed correctly.

“As I want to respond correctly to the body of devotees here, I’m checking with you first about Srila Prabhupada’s mood and instructions for following Ekadasi.

“I have always taken it that he wanted us to avoid grains, beans, dhal. I never heard him get into the long list of veggies that some gaudiyas avoid: tomatoes, cabbage, etc.

“My impression is that he considered fasting all day from even water to be a first class fast. However, he preferred that we take something simple (non grain, bean) and continue our preaching service.

“Can you help me with the mood, nuance of this topic according to SP so that I can respond with full authority and potency?”


I will do what I can prabhu.

Here’s a few ekadasi tales:

December 28 1976 – Sanand Gujarat

We were staying at the king of Sanand’s palace, and our hosts were cooking fairly elaborate meals for us. I had informed Srila Prabhupada that we were not taking breakfast because it was ekadasi and he smiled and expressed his pleasure. And then he told me, “Acutally to please Krsna, we can fast completely, even from water.” January 13, 1976 – Calcutta

[from TD1]

“Because it was Ekadasi we skipped breakfast and fasted until noon. But at lunchtime the devotees inadvertently broke the Ekadasi vow because the cook accidentally put peas into the vegetables. No one noticed until too late. Fortunately I arrived late for lunch because I had been massaging Srila Prabhupada. Just as I was about to eat, Jayapataka Maharaja shouted for me to stop. Although initially annoyed at being told not to eat, I was relieved when he pointed out the peas.

“Shamefaced, Tamal Krishna Maharaja went to Prabhupada to report what had happened and to find out what should be done.

Srila Prabhupada told us we were all nonsense. He angrily rebuked us, “Now you have to fast for three days!” This shocked everyone. “Yes, that is the procedure,” he confirmed. Seeing the stunned look on our faces he relented but said that we should observe Ekadasi for the rest of the day and then again tomorrow on Dvadasi.”

But the following ekadasi observance is I think quite relevant to your question:

[TD 1]   February 11th, 1976

The observance of Ekadasi today is coupled with a half-day fast for Lord Varahadeva’s appearance, although the Lord’s appearance is actually tomorrow.

As Prabhupada took his morning walk, he had Jayapataka Maharaja confirm the observance procedure by reading out from the Gaudiya Panjika, a yearly Vaisnava almanac the Gaudiya Matha produces. Since the auspicious appearance of Lord Varaha falls on Dvadasi, which is the day for breaking the Ekadasi fast, the two are combined.”

As we walked, Tamal Krishna Goswami asked about chanting extra rounds on ekadasi:

“Tamal Krishna also asked about chanting while observing Ekadasi. “We should always chant twenty-five rounds on Ekadasi if initiated?”

“Initiated? Everyone. Why initiated?”

“So that should be standard for our movement on Ekadasi day?” Tamal asked.

“Standard is sixteen. But if one can chant more, then he is welcome,” Prabhupada replied.

Tamal Krishna pressed to know if twenty-five was mandatory or not. When Jayapataka Maharaja suggested it was “recommended,” Prabhupada seemed to disagree. “No. Ekadasi means that, fasting and chanting.”

However, when Tamal Krishna Maharaja referred to his men going out on book distribution, Srila Prabhupada was quick to clarify. “No, no. That is also preaching work. For that purpose you can stop this. But generally, one who has no preaching work, he can chant extra.”

So I think that explains the principle quite clearly. Extra austerities on ekadasi are recommended for those who are not otherwise usefully engaged in the preaching work.

Preaching is a priority and compensates for whatever may not be done for ekadasi fasting. Therefore Srila Prabhupada asked us to do the minimium – fast from grains, beans and peas and go out and distribute books.

There is also the famous story of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati sending one of his brahmacaris on a mission on Ekadasi. The man had been ill and was weak and it seems the mission was urgent and he was the only one who could execute it. So SBBST ordered him to eat grains so that he would be strong enough to do his service.

 Finally, your question about cabbage, carrots etc. These vegetables were never prohibited by Srila Prabhupada. He ate them himself. If Prabhupada didn’t consider them important enough to be restricted, why should we?

I hope this helps.

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