I’m not talking about eleven constituents of service in the spiritual realm, I’m talking about my mood on ekadashi.
Generally, I’m not just skeptical about following ekadashi, I’m almost cynical. There’s been a practice lately to put up explanation and glorification of each ekadashi on the internet extolling all kinds of possible benefits. Apparently fasting on ekadashi is hundred times better than ashvamedha yajna, and hundred ashvamedhas give one the post of Indra, do the math. Fasting on ekadashi is even better then seeing the Lord face to face, if you believe those descriptions.
Why am I skeptical? Because of all the fine print, for one – it’s impossible to follow all the rules exactly unless you live in tightly controlled temple environment. There’s also the issue of food contamination – flour or grain products could be found in most unexpected places. Asafoetida, for example, is a no no on ekadashi, and I suspect other powdered spices could be tempered, too.
More importantly, however, is that I have no interest in what’s on offer there. Absolution from killing a brahmana? Becoming famous throughout the universe? If they offered faster car or faster internet they could have caught my attention but otherwise I’m not interested. Those boons are decidedly materialistic, I wouldn’t fast for materialistic purposes, not so much because we shouldn’t want karmic results but because in this day and age going to work is a far more obvious method. It’s so easy to ruin one’s ekadashi, by speaking to materialistic person, for example, salaries, on the other hand, are always paid unless you get fired.
Nevertheless, ekadashi is a day of Vishnu and puranic descriptions are often taken from conversations between Krishna and Maharaja Yudhishthira. Pandavas were asked to follow ekadashi, Mother Saci was asked to follow ekadashi, Srila Prabhupada instituted ekadashi in ISKCON – those are the reasons for me. I don’t know why we have to follow ekadashi. I can understand that for Pandavas it was a part of their religious duties, but why bother Mother Saci?
Are we really going to hell for the rest of the kalpa for taking grains? That seems very harsh and unreasonable.
Also, I don’t think my body is agreeable with fasting anymore. Ten twenty years ago fast was not a big deal but now something goes wrong with my chemistry, low blood sugar or something, and by afternoon I get terrible headaches that don’t go away until next day breakfast is properly digested, so almost for twenty four hours. I’m abstaining from food, yes, but then I eat aspirin instead. Is it how ekadashi is supposed to be followed? I don’t think so, but I also don’t think I have any other choice.
So, with this attitude as a background I’m happy to report that recently I’ve been really enjoying ekadashis. Not the food part, though, but the part where we chant twenty five rounds and read as much as possible. It’s as if subtle energies of the universe really align for those days and chanting goes as smooth as silk, mind becomes by best friend, and I can’t seem to pull myself away from books.
It feels as if a young brahmana boy started mastering his mantras – finally it works and it looks very promising.
It could be a placebo effect but I don’t mind – as long as chanting improves it doesn’t really matter why. Yesterday, on ekadashi, I had the best japa in a very long time. Today I couldn’t concentrate on more than a few mantras, the universe is out of sync again even if psychologically I wanted to extend yesterday’s bliss.
On one hand I’m glad that this is happening, and how could I not be, on the other hand I’m also cautious and worried. Two days of relief in each month is nice but it also only two days, it reminds me of how much garbage I carry in my heart and on my shoulders for the other twenty six lunar days and, observing it, I don’t think that ekadashi pickups matter very much. Life is short, I don’t think I’ll be able to purify my entire existence in time. Ekadashi or not, I don’t expect my body to become a body of a devotee. It will always remain selfish and contaminated so I look at ekadashi with apprehension of singles on Valentine day – all this romance everywhere is not a promise, it’s torture.
Should I even want perfection for my body? Should I waste all my life on trying to make it a perfect servant? I think it’s impossible, and, considering that I’m still acting under the false ego, it’s not even what I really want – I just want to be better than others or better than standards I set for myself. Service doesn’t really enter into the picture here and it’s theoretically impossible on the material platform.
Should I judge progress in my chanting on how it *feels*? Why? Shouldn’t we chant for Krishna’s pleasure first and foremost, so it doesn’t matter how we feel about it ourselves, only that it doesn’t really grind Krishna’s ear.
If was performing a transcendental activity, should I expect the results manifested on a material platform?
Nevertheless, doubts or no doubts, it’s human nature to be attracted to pleasant feelings and so if ekadashi fills me with sense of progress and hope I have no reason to deny this to myself. I could have been attracted to something else instead, there’s no loss here, only gain.
And that’s why I can’t wait for the next ekadashi.