Duty, Ekadashi, Address, Dress


Question: In chapter 3 of Bhagavad Gita, Krishna speaks of duty, and how one should do one’s duty imperfectly rather than perform another’s duty well. As Vaishnava’s in today’s world, what should our duty be? We live in a society and therefore I feel that I need to also fulfill the social roles that have been assigned to me. I understand this verse from to mean that while we must act as Vaishnavas, we must also act as grihastas for instance and accept those duties as well. Is this a correct interpretation?

Answer: The meaning is that the other duties, such as grihasta duties, should remain subsidiary to the prime duty, ie. Vaisnava duty.

That means two things: 1. The other duties should not go against or hamper the prime duty.

2. The other duties should support the prime duty.

Out of these, the first is a must. So we have to do other duties because we are part of society, but our main interest is in our Vaishnava duty.



Ekadashi Vrata

Question: A few weeks back I asked one Babaji at Katwa, W.B., about the content of Shri Hari Bhakti Vilas. He started reading it for me and chose Ekadashi as the topic. What he read and told and what struck me the most, were the following points:

1. Ekadashi should be “Nirjala”.
2. Do not sleep on the night of Ekadashi.
3. Do not sleep on the next day afternoon too.

Although it seems difficult to observe the above, it is not impossible. I am planning to observe Ekadashi vrata. Therefore kindly clarify whether Ekadashi done as per above is the only way or relaxation is also permitted.

Answer: That is the prathama kalpa. But for those who cannot follow that, there is vikalpa.

Which means eating light diet, containing fruits, roots but no grains, beans and honey.

The purpose is to remember Krsna and not to starve.



Properly Addressing Women

Question: “Mātājī” seems somehow not appropriate or natural for many cases where a woman should be addressed with an honorific. Perhaps this is just my conditioning. But what is the proper way to address a woman with honor, by name, though, without “Mātājī”? Is “Jī” acceptable as a suffix for women? Is “Śrīmatī” before the name overdoing it? Does “devī” have some type of romantic connotation?

Answer: In India we use Mataji for senior ladies, Bahinji (sister) for younger ones, Beti (daughter) for small ones.

It depends on situation and relation. There is no fixed rule. Sometimes just adding JI after the name is enough. If the woman is respectable and has some post, then Srimati is almost compulsory. Devi does not have a romantic connotation



 Saris and Dhotis

Question: I have heard that the terms “sari” and “dhoti” are no Sanskrit words and therefore we cannot really say what people used to wear in Vedic times.

Answer: Sari in Sanskrit is called shati or shatika. From that it becomes shadi (that is how they call it in Hindi) and that turns into sari. Dhoti is not a Sanskrit word, but that does not mean that there is no word for dhoti in Sanskrit.