Now comes a question – How to observe Ekadasi, as we know from the previous blog who is Ekadasi.
From the very beginning of His childhood life Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu introduced the system of observing a fast on the Ekadasi day. In the Bhakti-sandarbha, by Srila Jiva Goswami, there is a quotation from the Skanda Puran admonishing that a person who eats grains on Ekadasi becomes a murderer of his mother, father, brother and spiritual master, and even if he is elevated to a Vaikuntha planet, he falls down. On Ekadasi, everything is cooked for Vishnu, including regular grains and dhal, but it is enjoined that a Vaisnava should not even take visnu-prasadam on Ekadasi. It is said that a Vaisnava does not accept anything eatable that is not offered to Lord Visnu, but on Ekadasi a Vaisnava should not touch even maha-prasadam offered to Visnu, although such prasadam may be kept for being eaten the next day. It is strictly forbidden for one to accept any kind of grain on Ekadasi, even if it is offered to Lord Visnu. = REF. Adi 15.10 Ekadasi literally means “the eleventh day.” There are two Ekadasis in a month : on the eleventh day after the new moon, and on the eleventh day after the full moon. Of all vratas (vows of austerity), Visnu is most pleased with those who observe the Ekadasi vrata. Therefore anyone who does not observe the vrata and eats grains on Ekadasi is said to eat sin, for he disobeys the Lord’s order and thus displeases Him. Thus, although Ekadasi fasting is good for health, it should be undertaken principally for the sake of pleasing Krsna. To observe Ekadasi vrata and Dvadasi vrata means to please the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Those interested in advancing in Krsna consciousness must observe Ekadasi regularly.(SB 9.4.29) Hari Bhakti Vilasa quotes from many scriptures to establish the necessity of observing the Ekadasi vrata, to glorify the vrata, to establish the proper day on which to observe the vrata, and to give the proper mode of observance. Observing the Ekadasi vrata (vow of austerity) is one of the principal duties of Vaisnavas. To fail to do so is a serious offence. Bhaktivinoda Thakura has sung, madhava-tithi bhakti-janane jatane palana kari (Suddha-bhakata, from Saranagati): “I observe with great care the holy days like Ekadasi and Janmashtami, for they are the mother of devotion.” All people, male and female, of all castes and ages, from eight to eighty, should observe the Ekadasi vrata in all circumstances. This applies to the Ekadasis of both the waxing (gaura or sukla) and waning (krsna paksa) phases of the moon.
Offering Grains to the Spiritual Master and Lord Caitanya :
In a conversation, Srila Prabhupada said that grains should not be offered to either the spiritual master or Lord Caitanya and His associates on Ekadasi.
Devotee: On Ekadasi, we can offer the Deity grains?
Prabhupada: Oh, yes. But not guru. Ekadasi observed by jiva-tattva, not by Vishnu. We are fasting for clearing our material disease, but Radha-Krsna, Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Caitanya Mahaprabhu also may not be offered grains because He is playing the part of a devotee. Only Radha-Krsna, Jagannatha can be offered grains. Otherwise, Guru-Gauranga, no. And the prasadam should not be taken by anyone. It should be kept for the next day. [Srila Prabhupada Room Conversation, Tokyo, April 22, 1972]
Srila Prabhupada specified foodgrains and beans (pulses) as foods that must be avoided on Ekadasi. One may use spices for cooking, although mustard seeds should be avoided.* You should not use powdered asafatoeda (hing), since it (generally) contains grains. Sesame seeds are also to be avoided, except on Satila Ekadasi, when they may be offered and eaten. Do not use any cooking ingredients that might be mixed with grains, such as ghee that has been used to fry puris, or spices touched by hands dusted with chapati flour. * Someone who is very strictly observing Ekadasi should avoid all spices except pepper, rock salt and cumin. He should also eschew certain vegetables, such as tomatoes, cauliflower, eggplant, and leafy vegetables. Temple kitchens need not follow these strictures, since Srila Prabhupada did not establish them. Individual devotees may observe these rules if they choose, either making their own arrangements for cooking on Ekadasi, eating uncooked foods such as fruit, or observing full fasting. These arrangements should not interfere with the temple cooking schedule.
On Ekadasi, strict followers of Vaishnava regulations avoid eating any mahaprasada from an offering that includes grains. The shastra explains that the papa-purusha (sin personified) takes shelter in grains on Ekadasi, and therefore we avoid grains at all cost on that day, not even risking taking non-grain preparations of mahaprasada from an offering plate containing grains. Ekadasi mahaprasada should be stored until the next day; if that is not possible it can be distributed to persons not strictly following Vaishnava regulations or to animals. In fact, mahaprasada maintains its purity on Ekadasi despite the presence of the papa-purusha, and therefore it will purify anyone who eats it. Nevertheless, the followers of Caitanya Mahaprabhu, being strict followers of Vaishnava regulations, avoid mahaprasada on that day because their strict sadhana will be hampered by the presence of the papa-purusha.