Those who follow a discipline, sadhana, designed to realize one’s ideal in the bhakti-tradition, observe a fast from grains, pulses and certain spices every eleventh day of the bright and dark fortnight of the moon. Ekadasi tithi is the day of Sri Vishnu and stands for an intensified spiritual practice. Sadhus or saintly persons of higher order often uptake a voluntary vow, vrata, beginning at the dawn of the preceding day and ending in the sunset of the day following ekadasi, during which they minimize bodily demands in favor of enlightenment. The commitment advocates increased devotional activities like meditation; studying Srimad Bhagavatam, Mahabharata, Ramayana and other Puranas aiming at redeeming the perception of life; and singing lyrical expressions of love for the Divine, kirtan or bhajan, throughout the ekadasi night. Devotees sometimes make a bold statement of mauna, a promise of silence, by avoiding idle and unbeneficial words.
Many of today’s sadhakas or sadhu-aspirants live and work in the secular society that rarely accepts or endorses the interests of a modern yogi. We lack the luxury of taking six days off every few weeks to carry out self-control of such precision, and constantly balance our lifestyle and worldly obligations without compromising the goal. Thankfully, ekadasi is auspicious whether performed elaborately or simply. In fact, it is said to be fortunate even if adhered to unknowingly or accidentally by abstaining from grains.
The origin of ekadasi is discussed by the sages Vedavyasa and Jaimini in Padma Purana. If you are not familiar with the puranic literature, note that it approaches the philosophical themes of Upanishads from a personal point of view, depicting them as a part of interaction and relationships, rather than intellectual enigmas. This story, like many others, is a classic account of good and evil, personified by a beautiful goddess, Sri Ekadasi, whom Sri Vishnu manifested out of compassion to relieve the suffering of those who violate the laws of nature and fall in the hands of the embodiment of sin, Papa-purusha.
Left invalidated and unemployed because of Sri Ekadasi’s blessings upon the wrongdoers, Papa-purusha sobbingly begged Sri Vishnu to restore his control over those who are apt to negative karma. Being fair to all creatures, Sri Vishnu permitted him to enter food every eleventh phase of the waxing and waning moon, on ekadasi tithi, and instill destructive sensual desires in whoever eats grains on those days. It is said that all disharmony and imbalance of the material world take refuge in rice, wheat, corn, beans, peas, mustard seeds and other heavy foods on ekadasi.
Bhakti-yogis are not driven by the fear of karmic implications per se but see ekadasi as an opportunity to come closer to the Transcendence. Fasting pacifies the connective line between the tongue, belly and genitals, and helps the body to respite from dietary irregularities while releasing energy to subtle, conscious processes that nourish the soul’s thirst and hunger for self-realization. When the moon is quarterly full or dark, it gravitates very mildly and its rays sooth the nerves and feelings of the heart; when the mental tides are calm, it is easier to contemplate.
Cakes may not typically be on the menu during the fasting days but sometimes the situation calls for a sweet treat. Being gluten-free, the recipe serves guests with sensitivity to wheat on any occasion.
I have used milk-powder that has 26 % fat. I can’t confirm whether any other type of milk-powder will yield as good result. Be aware that the cake becomes dry if over-baked; keep it in the oven only as long as it takes to become firm. The exact duration depends on the height and width of the form. A regular 25 cm / 10” tin cooks in 170 C / 338 F for 30 to 40 minutes; cupcakes are ready much quicker. Insert a toothpick to determine a proper consistency. If you want to make a layered cake, it may be a good idea to bake each layer separately.
Due to the content of potato starch, this cake is delicate and somewhat sand-like. It is best eaten soon after baking.
Terry, if you are reading this: I will take up the subject of coping with a loss in another post soon. Thank you again for suggesting it.