Usually, I dread Ekadasi. I can easily eat in moderation, limiting myself to a single meal a day. But a day without chapatis is usually a heavy burden for me. I do it, but without enthusiasm.
This year, however, I was very enthusiastic for Nirjala. I was not planning a complete fast from frood and water. Rather, I would drink but not eat. I thought this realistic approach would lead me to a succesful day of performing some austerity for the Lord.
I am not a good faster. Half day, no problem. Three o’clock, okay. But the entire day? No way. I know this is more of an obstacle of the mind rather than the body, but so far in my devotional life, I have not been able to defeat the mind in this regard. At the same time, I know I have not really tried. I am too attached to the overall wellness of my body, with it’s delicate digestive system, that I do not want to act passionately one day, thus disturbing my health for the next month.
More importantly, I wanted to focus on sravanam, kirtanam, visnoh smaranam. I rose early, the way Prabhupada wants us to start our day. Mangala-aroti was sparsely attended. Instead of feeling surprised or disappointed that more of the community did not show up on such an important day of the Vaisnava calender, I chose to meditate on how I should increase my own attendance at the morning program.
Truly, I would like the enthusiasm I felt in anticipation for this year’s Nirjala to help me improve my devotional habits on a daily basis. What I wanted for Nirjala is what I want for everyday. Rise early, attend the program, chant early in the morning, do some seva, read. Minimize distractions such as internet use and talking on the phone. Of course, I couldn’t minimize the needs of my children but I explained to them the importance of the day. Even though they are still rather small, at least Venumadhava can begin to practice some austerity and gain some transcendental knowledge.
When I returned home I wanted to continue my chanting but my husband had some things he wanted to speak to me about. At first I was internally resistant because it was Nirjala and I really wanted to use the pre-kids-awake time to the best of my spiritual advantage. But considering I am in grhasta asrama, and Krishna Consciousness is about relationships, I let my time surrender to the situation. We connected really well and I felt surprised at the pleasure I got out of the interaction. The past few weeks have been leaps and bounds for our relationship. I am gaining insight into the saying that Laksmi Devi does not reside in houses where there is quarrel. As things improve in our spiritual life, our marriage improves. And as our marriage improves, an overall auspicious quality is brought into our home.
After we spoke, I continued with my chanting. While the caliber of my chanting remains at a very low and distracted level, I appreciate how the early, pre-children hours of the morning are most suitable for the cultivation of bhakti.
The day continued with us busily trying to ready our house for Maharaja and all our guests. The day after the program with Maharaja, HH Candramauli Swami will be giving class at our home. Since Panihati I have been feeling tremendous enthusiasm. And with this enthusiasm I see the Lord reciprocating with me by increasing our service. Suddenly, there is a burst of opportunity in our life to serve the devotees. I can’t see how we will possibly pull it off, but without a doubt the Lord will make arrangements. And if all else fails, we will take shelter of the merciful nature of the devotees.
By 3 o’clock I found myself ready to dissasemble my kids. Which, of course, is not allowed. So instead of losing my mind, I ate. It was one meal, simple but cooked. I felt a little lame eating a cooked meal. I should have just taken some anukalpa prasadam. To mitigate my indulgence, I took special effort not to eat for the rest of the day.
In the evening we walked out to the mulberry tree, picking fruit for the upcoming programs. I made sure I did not eat a single mulberry. I would have been better off if that was actually all I ate.
After the kids went to sleep, my husband read me the pastime of Haridasas Thakur passing from this world. A purport which stuck with me was for the verse Antya 11.24:
Unless one has come to the platform of spontaneous love of God, he must follow the regulative principles. Thakura Haridasa was the living example of how to follow the regulative principles. Similarly, Raghunatha dasa Gosvami was also such a living example. In the Sat-Gosvami-astaka it is stated, sankhya-purvaka-nama-gana-natibhih-kalavasani-krtau. The Gosvamis, especially Raghunatha dasa Gosvami, strictly followed all the regulative principles. The first regulative principle is that one must chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra loudly enough so that he can hear himself, and one must vow to chant a fixed number of rounds. Not only was Raghunatha dasa Gosvami chanting a fixed number of rounds, but he had also taken a vow to bow down many times and offer obeisances to the Lord.
These instructions were very wonderful to hear on Nirjala Ekadasi. Vows have never been a strong point for me. The seriousness of the culture we have invited into our lives when we take nama-diksa is difficult to understand. The point is subtle, yet profound. The potency can only be understood once we begin to seriously follow.
In a class I have of Varsana Swami, Maharaja asks, “How do you get the mercy of Caitanya Mahaprabhu?” His answer is, “By following strictly the instructions of Caitanya Mahaprabhu.”
This morning I stopped by the samadhi site to talk with the devotees. It is the Disappearance Day of HH Bhakti Tirtha Swami on the Roman calendar. Also, it is Madhumati’s second birthday. Despite working all day long in the humid, constant heat, the devotees working on the samadhi followed Nirjala Ekadasi. They had every excuse to drink water, yet they didn’t. They followed strictly and therefore were empowered by the mercy.