Sankaracharya and Crocodile - Parama Ekadasi
The young Sankaracarya is caught by a crocodile

Parama Ekadashi Katha – The Second Ekadashi of Purusottama Vrat

 

Sriman Mahaprabhu taught that in Kali-yuga, Tulasi, Salagrama, Ganga, Ekadashi, Jagannatha maha-prasada and Vraja-raja, the dust of Vraja, are extremely beneficial for the conditioned souls. But on Ekadashi, Mahaprabhu taught that we should not even take Jagannatha’s maha-prasada. Mahaprabhu taught us to apply vraja-raja as tilaka on our bodies. And we bathe in Ganga-water and take acamana with Ganga-water. When in Jagannatha-puri, Mahaprabhu always took Jagannatha’s maha-prasada. However, on Ekadashi day, Mahaprabhu would not take Jagannatha’s maha-prasada.

 

Parama Ekadashi appears as the second Ekadashi in the month of Purusottama. The previous Ekadashi, and first Ekadashi in the month of Purusottama, was Padmini Ekadashi. The next Ekadashi will be Pandava Nirjala Ekadashi. The glories and importance of Ekadashi are accepted in all Vaisnava-sampradayas, and even amongst the mayavadis. Ekadashi is Madhava-tithi. Madhava is disrespected by those who neglect Ekadashi. Whatever increases our love for God is beneficial for us. So we accept those things from the ocean of scripture that is favorable for the development of love for God.

 

Sankaracarya Follows Ekadashi

In his childhood, Acarya Sankara followed Ekadashi. His mother had much love for her only son, who became Acarya Sankara. She served at a Krsna temple, nearby the Purna-nadi (river). She taught her son to seriously follow Ekadashi; that we offer this day completely in the service of God. On Ekadashi day, from early morning to evening, she would engage her son in devotional activities, chanting and remembering the names of God, and serving at the temple in various ways. When one serves Krsna then taste arises for engaging in bhakti and detachment comes from the body and relatives. Acarya Sankara’s mother told her boy, “You should offer all your energy and time on Ekadashi for the service of God. Ekadashi is God’s day.”

 

“Shouldn’t I offer everything to God, everyday?”

 

“Then you will be supremely fortunate. Your life will be successful.”

 

“Yes,” he said, “to renounce everything and offer oneself to God completely for one day is not enough. I will offer myself and surrender fully to God.”

 

Acarya Sankara’s mother was very scholarly and advanced, otherwise how could she be the mother of the glorious Sankaracarya? She encouraged her son and told him, sastra says:

 

sarvopadhi-vinirmuktam

tat-paratvena nirmalam

hrsikena hrsikesa-sevanam bhaktir ucyate

 

Pure bhakti is to offer one’s senses in the service of Hrsikesa, the Lord of the senses, after relinquishing all one’s material designations.

 

And she told him the verse: sa vai manahkrsna-padaravindayor vacamsi vaikuntha-gunanuvarnane . How can we engage all our senses in God’s service? We must take shelter of Ekadashi-devi and by her mercy, we can be nourished with bhagavat-rasa. Then we will naturally always engage in service and be filled with bliss. All our fires of lust, anger, greed, and so forth, will then be extinguished. When we drink the elixir of bhagavat-rasa our hearts will be completely cooled and satisfied and we will have no more trouble in life.

 

Acarya Sankara’s mother explained this to her son. He said, “Yes, I will drink that nectar.”

 

Then, every Ekadashi, Acarya Sankara would seriously observe fasting and engage all his time and energy in service. He would not speak, he only chanted, performed kirtana, and heard hari-katha. In the early morning, the priests would do krsna-puja and then offer bhoga. The annukalpa roots and fruits prasada was then shared amongst the priests and devotees. Acarya Sankara’s mother asked her son to take some of this Ekadashi-prasada.

 

He said, “Mother, God is one, is He not?”

 

“Yes,” she replied.

 

“And I am God’s person?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Then, why should I take anything else? You told me that Sukadeva Gosvami gave bhagavat-rasa to Pariksit Maharaja and then he no longer felt any material hunger or thirst and did not have to eat. So why should I take anything?”

 

The pujaris and priests offered something to him, but he wouldn’t take it. Then Krsna Himself appeared in a vision to Acarya Sankara, and told him to take prasada.

 

Acarya Sankara desired to become a sannyasi even as a little boy. He thought, “If I can offer to God and renounce everything of this world, then I will become a sannyasi.”

 

How to Gradually Take Sannyasa

We practice this by properly following Ekadashi. First, we take sannyasa for one day every two weeks, by properly following Ekadashi. Then, we learn to take sannyasa for five days by following Bhisma-pancaka. Gradually, we progress to following sannyasa for a month at a time during the months of Kartika-vrata, Purusottama-vrata, and so forth. Then, we perform sannyasa for four months by following caturmasya-vrata very seriously. By doing this, we can learn to become a sannyasi for our whole life.

 

Acarya Sankara followed Ekadashi, Caturmasya, and all these occasions very seriously. Hanuman witnessed Sita-devi putting Sindhura on the parting of her hair and heard that it insured Lord Rama long life, so he put Sindhura all over his body. So, Sankaracarya is the avatara of Lord Siva who is also Hanuman. Sankaracarya followed Ekadashi, Madhava-tithi, with great enthusiasm and seriousness. Where most people would follow to a small extent, some rules for Ekadashi, Sankaracarya followed all the rules pertaining to Ekadashi in sastra. Now, he was eight years old. He said, “Mother, please give me permission to take sannyasa.”

 

“No,” she said, “if you take sannyasa, then I will be left alone.”

 

“You said that all one’s life should be offered to God, therefore I want to take sannyasa.”

 

“How will you be strong enough to take sannyasa, you are just a boy?”

 

“One who identifies himself as a man of God will naturally be detached from this world and one who thinks of himself as a personality of this world with material relatives will naturally be attached to gross sense enjoyment. I want to be related only to Madhava, the Lord and master of Ekadashi-devi.”

 

But his mother did not agree with his proposal to take sannyasa. She said he was too young and she would not be able to cope alone without him. Then, Acarya Sankara went to the Purna-nadi river to bathe. His mother told him to quickly return and then to go with her to the Krsna temple to perform worship there. She would always be serving in the temple, a short distance from the Purna-nadi river. You can still see a Krsna temple nearby the birthplace of Sankaracarya there in South India. Sankaracarya established worship of Krsna wherever he built temples and mathas. In his Govardhana-matha, Krsna presides. In Sringiri-matha, there is Krsna. In Josi-matha, there is Krsna. In the Sarada-matha, there is Krsna. Sankaracarya established everywhere the worship of Krsna, not others. Therefore Sankaracarya later wrote:

 

bhaja govindam bhaja govindam

bhaja govindam mudha-mate

 

“Oh fools, just worship Govinda. Don’t become entrapped in mundane scholarship.”

 

A Crocodile Attacks Sankaracarya

When Acarya Sankara went as a boy to bathe in the Purna-nadi river, a crocodile came and caught on to his leg. He cried out to his mother, “Mother, my life is ending. A crocodile has captured me in its jaws. The river has turned red with my blood. Please permit me to take sannyasa before my life expires. Maya, mohini-maya, is everywhere, and is ready to give so many gifts. She is always trying to conquer conditioned souls and make them her servants, but I want to be free of her illusory power. I want to take sannyasa.”

 

This crocodile caught Acarya Sankara to provide him an excuse to take sannyasa.

 

“Please, let me take sannyasa before I die, mother, then I will get mukti and will always be the servant of God.”

 

“You are the servant of God, but has God protected you?” his mother said. She then began crying out pathetically for the help of Krsna. “Krsna, please save my son. Please save my son.” Krsna however, only smiled and did not free Sankara from the crocodile’s grasp. Why? She wanted to control her son. This is called maya. On one side, people beg God, “Please, please, give me bread and butter, otherwise You are a cheater.” But Sankara said, “How will I be the sole follower of Madhava.”

 

His mother finally said, seeing no other recourse, “Okay, you may take sannyasa.”

 

At once, Sankara accepted sannyasa and the crocodile freed him. He then ran away from his birth place and went to accept a guru and from him he took sannyasa.

 

Madhvacarya Follows Parama Ekadashi

Sri Madhvacarya also followed Ekadashi and all special holy days very seriously. He is also an expansion of Hanuman. In his youth, he would serve Ananta Padmanabha under guidance of his father. He was the son of Madhvageha Bhatta, in a very nice brahmana family. He similarly took sannyasa at a very young age. He said, “Sastra has declared that sannyasa is the pathway to reach God. One must give up all attachment to this world. Why should I collect maya? I will collect the hearts of conditioned souls and offer them to the lotus feet of Anantesvara Padmanabha.”

 

In the Madhva-sampradaya, the sannyasis fast the whole day and night. From before brahma-muhurta, they start offering tulasi leaves to Lord Krsna. They offer 1,008 tulasi leaves to the lotus feet of Lord Krsna. Tulasi is Bhagavat-priya. The Lord only accepts what is offered along with Tulasi and Candana. Candana is the dust of Vraja-bhumi and Tulasi is Krsna’s near and dear lover. Bhagavan promised:

 

tulasi dala-matrena

jalasya culukena va

vikrinite sva atmanam

bhakta bhaktebhyo na parah

 

And it is further said by sadhus and sastra: vicarana na karo. Don’t question this directive of the Lord. Offer Him tulasi and candana with full faith that He accepts these articles which are most dear to Him. Know that the Lord is pleased by this form of offering.

 

On this Ekadashi day, the sannyasis of the Madhva line worship the Lord with tulasi and candana. There are two sannyasis presiding over each temple and they come into the temple sanctum during the night of Ekadashi and from two a.m. unto eight a.m. they offer tulasi and candana to the Lord’s Deity—before and after mangala-arati.

 

Madhvacarya taught the importance of following Madhava-tithi Ekadashi. Today is Parama-Ekadashi. Tulasi is parama-prestha to Krsna. Sri Guru gives japa-mala made of Tulasi wood to chant harinama on. In this way, we catch the lotus feet of Vrnda-devi while chanting, and then Krsna will appear on our tongues when we chant His names, along with Srimati Radhika and the Vrajavasis. Gurudeva does not give his disciples neem beads, rudraksa beads, or lotus seed beads, he gives only tulasi beads. In this way, he offers his disciples to Srimati Vrnda-devi, Tulasi-devi.

 

Vrnda-devi Gives a Special Chance on Parama Ekadashi

On this Parama-Ekadashi day, Vrnda-devi herself gives a special chance to serve Madhava. Her name is Paramananda-mayi, Yogamaya, Vrnda-devi. Her name is Bhagavati, Purnamasi, Nandimukhi—these expansions are all part of her group—they are her family. Therefore, Srila Gurudeva would always pray, everyday when he woke up:

 

radhesa keli prabhuta vinoda

vinyasa vijnam vraja vanditangrim

krpalu tadya akhila visva-vandhya

sri purnamasi sirasa namami

 

“Oh Purnamasi, Oh Bhagavati, please help me. You are very kind.”

 

When did she come to Vraja-mandala? She came before the appearance of Krsna, bringing Kusumasava, along with her. This is described by Srila Jiva Gosvami in Gopala-campu. When she entered Vraja-bhumi she asked, “Where is Nanda-bhavan? How can I reach there?” The Vrajavasis showed her the direction. Anyone who spoke with her received vraja-prema, prema-bhakti. Their hearts all were transformed and blossomed with pure love. The path she walked on similarly all became transformed and appeared to be the embodiment of ananda, bliss. Everything was green, clean, beautiful, decorated with flowers, and so forth. All the cows became youthful, all the Vrajavasis became effulgent and full of the vitality of youth. When she came to Nanda-bhavan she met with Nanda Maharaja and said, “I have come from Goloka-Vrndavana. Now, Parabrahma, Paramesvara, the Supreme Lord Himself, will soon appear in your home. I have been sent in advance to help you arrange everything for His appearance.”

 

Nanda Maharaja offered to give opulent quarters for Purnamasi-devi, but she said she was a sannyasini and would stay in a simple hut on the bank of the Yamuna, along with her grandson, Kusumasava. “Will you allow me to send you prasada?” Nanda Maharaja asked.

 

“I will only take Go-rasa, milk, and fruits.” Go-rasa is very helpful to achieve Vraja-rasa and Bhakti-rasa. Cows eat grass, and sleep in the dust of Vraja. Their milk is thus connected to the dust of Vraja.

 

“I will only take a small amount of this Go-rasa to maintain my life, and a few fruits and roots.”

 

She would help all the Vrajavasis with anything they needed. Whoever met her naturally felt respect for her and they would be energized and filled with good qualities to serve Madhava-tithi.

 

Before Krsna appeared, first came Baladeva Prabhu, Sri Guru. All Baladeva Prabhu’s expansions, Mula-Sankarsana, Maha-Sankarsana, Anantadeva, Karanadakasayi Visnu, Garbodakasayi Visnu—They all appeared along with Baladeva Prabhu, within His original two-handed form. They eagerly waited for Madhava, Krsna’s arrival.

 

In this way, Krsna, Baladeva, and Subhadra-devi, who is none other than Purnamasi-devi, are all intimately related. Baladeva and Purnamasi-devi, Subhadra-devi, help us and prepare us to serve Purusottama, Krsna. So this Parama-Ekadashi is closely related to Vrnda-devi, also known as Purnamasi-devi.

 

Madhvacarya followed Purusottama-vrata and this Parama Ekadashi. We are part of the Madhva-sampradaya, but many people who claim so do not follow properly the rules and regulations pertaining to this school of Vaisnavas, such as the requirements for following Ekadashi. Sriman Mahaprabhu gave a special opportunity to progress through simply chanting harinama. However, how can we be inclined to chant harinama? Where will the strength come from to chant harinama? How can we achieve a pure relationship? How can we enter inside Vraja-bhumi? Guru-pada-padma arranges everything, but if we neglect him, and what he desires for us, then we are all lost.

 

On this Ekadashi day, many places do not properly follow. In Mathura, when we were with Srila Gurudeva, we would fast the whole day. Sometimes, those devotees who could not perform nirjala, would take some boiled potatoes with yogurt or lemons and salt, in the evening, after Gaura-arati. The rest of the day they would fast. They would not have large feasts.

 

Ekadashi Concession

When Srila Gurudeva began preaching in the West, and would return back to India, then he gave some concession for Western people, who could not tolerate hard austerities, thus he would allow a midday meal to be served as well as something simple in the evening. However, we should not abuse this concession and start having opulent feasts in the name of following Ekadashi. We must practice controlling our senses and offering everything to God. Then we can achieve the perfection of life and become perfect sannyasis, like the Vraja-gopis. One day, by following Ekadashi properly, we will be able to renounce everything, to give up everything, and we will then become perfect sannyasis. We will then also be able to help others who come in contact with us. From respect comes faith, and from faith awakens love. This is the process. That love has divine power—transcendental rasa. Drinking this rasa completely satisfies the self and fills one with divine bliss. One will then feel no material hunger or thirst. Our only hunger or thirst will be to lovingly serve Krsna.

 

Purnamasi Bhagavati came to Vraja-bhumi to distribute Vraja-rasa. She engaged the Sruticaris, Smrticaris, Upanisadcaris—who had all taken birth as Vraja-gopis—in katyayani-vrata. She gave them a siddha-mantra to chant and by the process of chanting this mantra and following katyayani-vrata, they became related permanently to Sri Krsna. After one month, Krsna stole all the gopis’ clothes, and checked to see if they still had attachment to their bodies, if they had love for their bodies. “Do you love Me? Or do you love your bodies? What are you attached to? Are you attached to your bodies, or are you really sannyasis?”

 

They then surrendered everything to Krsna and became perfect sannyasis—accepting complete surrender. They were then akincana-niskincana.

 

Purnamasi Bhagavati-devi gave the gopis paramananda, the highest and greatest thing, a relationship with Sri Krsna.

 

The Special Gift Given by Following Parama Ekadashi Vrat

All Ekadashi days come with Madhava, therefore they are Madhava-tithi. However, each Ekadashi comes with a special gift for the conditioned souls. This Parama-Ekadashi helps us become sannyasis. Without her help, we can never free ourselves of attachment. Even on our deathbed, we cannot become free of attachment without her help. We will be reborn in the cycle of samsara. We will never be able to free ourselves of the cycle of birth, death, and continual suffering.

 

Sankaracarya said:

punar api jananam punar api maranam punar api janane jathane sayanam

 

“Again and again I take birth and die, again and again I am placed in suffering in the womb of a mother. How can one be freed of this?”

 

Sankaracarya wrote how we can give up everything and achieve God—how we can achieve liberation and be always related to God.

 

Madhvacarya also told his parents when he was twelve years old, “I will now take sannyasa.”

 

How did he get this strength of character? Faith is everything. No faith, then it is impossible to renounce even the smallest thing. We will always be sentimental and unable to tolerate anything. If anyone insults us, we will burn and be ready to attack them and will seek retribution and revenge. We are thus always suffering in maya. We are then followers of our mind, mana, and are demons. A demon is a follower of the mana, the mind. We will always seek tit-for-tat and to repay any injury done against us. Then how can we escape the cycle of karma, action and reaction? We must become detached from everything in this world, then we can become sannyasis, and achieve liberation.

 

So Madvacarya said, “I will take sannyasa.”

 

His father said, “No.”

 

“Yes.”

 

Madhvacarya went to his guru, took sannyasa, and then ran away very far. He became a parivrajaka-acarya. He was connected to Paramananda-mayi Purnamasi-devi and from her, he received this power of renunciation. Purnamasi-devi is the expansion of svarupa-sakti Srimati Radharani. She is between Lord Jagannatha and Baladeva. On one side, there is Gurudeva, Baladeva Prabhu, and on the other side, there is Lord Jagannatha, and in the middle is Subhadra-devi, Purnamasi-devi, who gives su-bhadra, the highest form of auspiciousness. She cleans us of everything inauspicious and makes us related to Lord Jagannatha.

 

Paramananda-mayi Purnamasi-devi gives us the strength to properly follow Ekadashi and renounce this world for the sole purpose of achieving our soul’s beloved, Sri Krsna. The day of Ekadashi is like a post; like the post of a prime minister or president—like the post of Brahma, Siva, Indra, etc. But the day of Ekadashi is personified by different personalities who are expansions of Svarupa-sakti, Srimati Radharani. Krsna Himself arranges this day of Ekadashi as a nursing system for the conditioned souls.

 

Check Your Heart on Ekadashi

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura said, “Every Ekadashi you should check your heart, like a businessman checks his profits and losses, and consider how much you have progressed in your bhakti or how much you have stopped following bhakti.”

 

How can we escape maya? How can we collect bhagavat-sakti? Where is this bhagavat-sakti present? Sastra bestows bhagavat-sakti. But we can study all sastras and not receive any bhagavat-sakti. We must come under guidance of the personalities who wrote the sastras, of the sadhus who were empowered as the mediums to the Lord’s message. Without their help, we will remain arrested as prisoners in the maya-jagat, which is Durga, a jail for the errant souls who have turned away from the face of God. So we must take shelter of Guru-Sadhu-Sastra. By taking shelter of the Bhagavad-gita, we can become related to Sri Krsna. But we must endeavor to do so, and not dryly read or study for our own profit and fame. When we have all the collection of sastra in our heart, then we are firmly related to Bhagavan. This is bhagavat-sakti.

 

Our Guru Maharaja was referred to as the dictionary of the Gaudiya-matha. All sastra was present within his heart. He had love for sastra and knew this was the means to become connected to Bhagavan and His associates. Sastra is the one way to be related to Bhagavan. But we must approach sastra through the sadhus: bhagavat-keha padi mare, keha padi tare—some read the Bhagavat and go to hell, and some read and achieve liberation.

 

Svarupa Damodara said, “Yaha bhagavata-pade vaisnavera sthane. Hear the Bhagavata from Vaisnavas.” Then sastra is the astra, or weapon, that cuts through our illusion and attachments in this material world. Satsu sajjeta su buddhimana, santa eva sa chindanti. Sastra and the words of sadhus are like swords that cut through all our attachments. Mana muktibhi—they liberate our minds. How are we cleansed by sastra? Sastra has this power.

 

Parama Ekadashi is Krsna’s Very Special Servant

This Parama-Ekadashi is Krsna’s very special servant. She gives us entrance into Vraja-bhumi and she can give us bhagavat-prema. We are lucky to be in Purusottama-dhama. Pray for mercy from Ekadashi-devi. We have come to Sri Guru, but do not look at guru, but rather at his opulence. Srila Gurudeva would always say, “Do you look at me, or do you look at maya? What do you want? Me or my wealth?” Be like Srila Sanatana Gosvami. Don’t look at the wealth of Madana-Mohana. Look at the service of the Vraja-devis. Pray: he radhe vraja-devike he nanda-suno kutah. Always cry, weep, and pray. But for what? Why would the Gosvamis pray like this? Krsna was with them. But they prayed, “I am with Krsna, but if I have no relation with the Vrajavasis, then Krsna would take me away with Him to Dvaraka or Mathura, or He would give me so much maya and send me away. I don’t want this. I only want Vraja-prema.”

 

We must be very careful to avoid maya. If we are attached to maya, then even though we may be in the company of Guru and Vaisnavas, our attachments will still drag us down to hell. We are in the lap of Srila Gurudeva here in Purusottama-dhama. Don’t let yourself go away from Guru Maharaja. Pray, “Oh Paramananda-mayi! Oh Purnamasi Bhagavati! Oh Yogamaya Vrnda-devi! Please help me. I know you help the followers of Purusottama-vrata. I do not have the strength to properly follow this vrata. But you are very kind. Please help me.”

 

Then realizations and feelings will come to you and your life will be successful. You will always stay with Guru Maharaja and Vaisnavas. You will never have any problem in life then. Otherwise, there are so many problems waiting on all sides. How can you solve them alone? It is impossible. Therefore, seriously chant, read, and pray to Ekadashi-devi. We are alone without the help of the divine personalities. Always endeavor to serve the Vaisnavas. If we can receive their mercy, then that is our food for spiritual life.

 

[Hari-katha inspired by the Gaudiya Guru-varga]