Dalbhya Risi said to Pulastya Muni, “When the spirit soul comes in contact with the material energy, he immediately begins to perform sinful activities, such as stealing, killing, and illicit sex. He may even perform many other terrible deeds, such as killing a brahmana. O purest of personalities, please tell me how these unfortunate souls may escape the punishment of being sent to hellish regions of creation. Kindly inform me how, by giving even a little in charity, one may easily become free of his sins.”
Pulastya Muni replied, “O fortunate one, you have asked me a food and confidential question, which not even Brahma, Visnu, Siva, or Indra has ever asked. Please listen very carefully to my answer.
“With the arrival of the month of Magha [January-February], one should bathe, carefully control his senses by giving up lust, anger, pride, jealousy, faultfinding, and greed, and meditate on the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krsna. One should then gather up some cow dung before it touches the ground and, after mixing it with sesame seeds and cotton, form 1O8 balls. This should be done on the day when the constellation of Purvasadhanaksatra arrives. Then one should follow the rules and regulations of Ekadasi, which I shall now explain to you.
“After bathing, the person who intends to observe Ekadasi should worship the Supreme Lord. While praying to Lord Krsna by chanting His name, he should promise to observe the Ekadasi fast. He should remain awake overnight and perform a homes. Then the devotee should perform arati to the Lord-who holds a conch, disk, club, and so on in His hands-offering Him sandalwood paste, incense, camphor, a bright ghee lamp, and delicious preparations of food. Next the devotee should offer the 108 balls of cow dung, sesame seeds, and cotton into the sacred fire while chanting the holy names of the Supreme Lord, Krsna. Throughout the whole day and night he should also observe the standard Ekadasi fast, which in this case is a fast from all grains and beans. On this occasion one should offer the Lord pumpkin, coconut, and guava. If these items are unavailable, betel nut may be substituted.
“The devotee should pray to Lord Janardana, the benefactor of all beings, in this way: ‘O Lord Sri Krsna, You are the most merciful Personality of Godhead and the liberator of all fallen souls. O Lord, we have fallen into the ocean of material existence. Please be kind to us. O lotus-eyed divinity, please accept our most humble and affectionate obeisances. O protector of the world, we offer You our respects again and again. O Supreme Spirit, O Supreme One, O source of all our forefathers, may You and Your eternal consort, Srimati Laksmi-devi, please accept these humble offerings.’
“The devotee should then try to please a qualified brahmana with a warm welcome, a pot full of water, an umbrella, a pair of shoes, and clothes, requesting him at the same time to bestow his blessings, by which one may develop unalloyed love for Krsna. According to one’s ability, one may also donate a black cow to such a brahmana, particularly to one who is very well versed in all the injunctions of the Vedic scriptures. One should also offer him a pot full of sesame seeds.
“O exalted Dalbhya Muni, black sesame seeds are especially suitable for formal worship and fire sacrifices, while white or brown sesame seeds are meant to be eaten by a qualified brahmana. One who can arrange to give both kinds of sesame seeds on this sacred Sat-tila Ekadasi will be promoted to the heavenly planets for as many thousands of years as the number of seeds that would be produced if the seeds he donated were sown in the ground and grew into mature, seed-bearing plants.
“On this Ekadasi a faithful person should bathe in water mixed with sesame seeds, rub sesame seed paste on his body, offer sesame seeds in sacrifice, eat sesame seeds, give sesame seeds away in charity, and accept charitable gifts of sesame seeds. These are the six [sat] ways in which sesame seeds [tila] are utilized for spiritual purification on this Ekadasi. Therefore it is called Sat-tila Ekadasi.
“The great Devarsi Naradaji once asked the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna, ‘O mighty-armed Lord, O You who are so affectionate to Your loving devotees, please accept my most humble obeisances. O Yadava, kindly tell me the result one obtains by observing Sat-tila Ekadasi.’
“Lord Sri Krsna replied, ‘O best of the twice-born, I shall narrate to you an account of an incident I personally witnessed. Long ago on earth there lived an old female brahmana who worshiped Me every day with controlled senses. She very faithfully observed many a fast, especially on special days honoring Me, and served Me with full devotion, devoid of any personal motive. Her rigorous fasting made her quite weak and thin. She gave charity to brdhmanas and young maidens, and even planned to give away her house in charity. O best of the brdhmanas, although this spiritually-minded woman gave charitable donations to worthy people, the odd feature of her austerity was that she never gave food to brdhmanas or demigods.
” ‘I began to reflect on this curious omission: “This fine woman has purified herself by fasting on all the auspicious occasions and by offering Me strict devotional worship. Therefore she has certainly become eligible to enter My personal abode, which is unattainable by ordinary persons.” So I came down to this planet to examine her, disguising Myself as a follower of Lord Siva’s complete with a garland of skulls draped around My neck and a begging pot in My hand.
“‘As I approached her, she said to Me, “O respectable one, tell me truthfully why You have come before me.”
“‘I replied, “O beautiful one, I have come to get some sacred alms from you”-whereupon she angrily threw a dense lump of mud into My begging pot! O Narada, I simply turned around and went back to My personal abode, astonished at this fine brahmani’s peculiar mixture of great magnanimity and stinginess.
“‘At last this austere lady reached the spiritual world in her self-same body, so great were her efforts at fasting and charity. And because she had indeed offered Me a lump of mud, I transformed that mud into a beautiful home. However, O Naradaji, this particular house was completely devoid of any edible grains, as well as any furniture or ornamentation, and when she entered it she found only an empty structure. She therefore approached Me and said with great anger, “I have fasted repeatedly on so many auspicious occasions, making my body weak and thin. I have worshiped You and prayed to You in so many different ways, for You are truly the master and protector of all the universes. Yet despite all this there is no food or wealth to be seen in my new home, O Janardana. Why is this?”
“I replied, “Please return to your house. Sometime later the wives of the demigods will pay you a visit out of curiosity to see the new arrival, but do not open your door until they have described to you the glories and importance of $a!-tila Ekadasi.”
“‘Hearing this, she returned to her house. Eventually the demigods’ wives arrived there and in unison said, “O beautiful one, we have come to have your darsana. O auspicious one, please open your door and let us see you.”
” ‘The lady replied, “O most dear ones, if you want me to open this door, you will have to describe to me the merit one obtains by observing the sacred fast of Sat-tila Ekadasi.” But not one of the wives responded.
“‘Later, however, they returned to the house, and one of the wives nicely explained the sublime nature of this sacred Ekadasi. And when the lady at last opened her door, they saw that she was neither a demigoddess, a Gandharvi, a she-demon, nor even a Naga-patni. She was simply an ordinary lady.
“‘From then on the lady observed Sat-tila Ekadasi, which awards material enjoyment and liberation at the same time, as it had been described to her. And she finally received the beautiful furnishings and grains she had expected for her home. Moreover, her once ordinary material body was transformed into a beautiful spiritual form with a fine complexion. So, by the mercy and grace of Sat-tila Ekadasi, both the lady and her new home in the spiritual world were at last radiantly splendid and lustrous with gold, silver, jewels, and diamonds.
“‘O Naradaji, a person should not ostentatiously observe Ekadasi, out of greed, with the hope of attaining wealth dishonestly. Selflessly, he should simply donate sesame seeds, clothes, and food according to his capacity, for by doing so he will achieve good health and exalted spiritual consciousness, birth after birth. Ultimately, liberation and admittance into the Lord’s supreme abode will be his to enjoy. That is my opinion, O best of the demigods.’
“O Dalbhya Muni,” Pulastya Risi concluded, “one who properly observes the wonderful Sat-tila Ekadasi with great faith becomes free from all kinds of poverty-spiritual, mental, physical, social, and intellectual-as well as all kinds of ill luck and evil omens. Indeed, following this Ekadasi fast by donating, sacrificing, or eating sesame seeds frees one of all past sin, without a doubt. One need not wonder how this happens. The rare soul who properly performs these acts of charity in the right devotional mood, following the Vedic injunctions, will become utterly free of all sinful reactions and go back to Godhead, back home to the spiritual world.”
[Ekadasi, The Day of Lord Hari, by Sri Krsna Balaram Swamiji, KBS0104]