Questions on Ekadasi

This section presents a selection of questions and answers with Babaji Satyanarayana Dasa which will be updated regularly.


Q: Can you please explain the meaning of Ekadasi.

A: It means the 11th day of lunar fortnight. The mind is the boss of the senses, and it is the eleventh sense. Fasting on this day and remembering Krishna helps control the mind. It is the day of Krishna, who is the presiding deity. Vaisnavas try to devote their mind and senses to remembering Krishna. Fasting or eating light diet makes mind alert and thus conducive for meditation on Krishna.

Q: What about other vegetables that are prescribed to be avoided like mushrooms and onions. What are their effects? And are they the only two?

A: Any tamasic and rajasic food such as garlic, liquor, cigarettes are forbidden because they have an adverse effect on mind.

Q: I have a question about the Papa Purusa: It is said to enter the grains on Ekadashi day, yet shastra also says that children younger than 8 and elders older than 80 are exempt from fasting from grains, what to speak of non-Vaishnavas. Does the Papa Purusa not pervade their grains then? How should we picture this Papa Purusa?

A: Papa means improper action, that which will harm oneself and the society i.e. which will create moral imbalance. Actions depend upon the state of mind. The mind is most influenced by food. Moon, besides being the presiding deity of mind, is also the king of vanaspati (foodstuff). It is understood that the quality of food changes with time. Ayurveda is very explicit about it. Time is calculated by the movements of the luminaries. On Ekadashi grains are not salubrious for the mind so they should be avoided . This fact is told in form of the story about Papa Purusha for a common person. In case of a child or old person also the Papa Purusha is there but probably the outcome of not eating grains would be worse than that of eating, so choose the least of bad effects.

Cowherd boy in Vraja

Q: I would like to follow caturmasya. May you give me some advise, on what to eat and what to do in the next 4 months?

A: Caturmasya vrata (vow during Caturmasya time) is primarily for health reasons. One is meant to follow a certain diet to avoid falling sick. It is the time that rains come in North India. So drinking of milk in the first month and yogurt in the second was prohibited. But these principles have not much value in the West or even in India when people are buying everything in the Supermarket because we are not eating the fresh food directly from nature which is affected by the seasons. Even the milk available in the market is processed. Also, the season have changed a lot.

But in the month of September/October when autumn ends and winter begins, it is better to eat light diet. It is good to fast for a few days and just take fruit, juices and soups. I will do that when I return to India. The idea is that body is more prone to catch disease during a change of season. So at that time if we take light diet then we can counteract any attack of disease. Just as we do prayers at dusk and dawn which are also the time of change, similarly  seasonal changes are observed with fasting or light diet. This is the theory of Caturmasya. Now you can design your own program. Good health promotes spirituality in that sense these principles are indirectly related to spirituality. Otherwise, there is nothing inherently spiritual about these diet principles.