Ekadashi

Lord Hari’s Dearmost Dasi Ekadashi

The bestower of Krishna Bhakti

The Supreme Absolute Truth Hari, is the unlimited reservoir of pleasure as proclaimed by the Vedanta Sutra, “ananda-mayo bhyasat”. The Lord is supremely merciful. However, the scriptures again and again give a special importance to the ardent pure devotees of the Lord who have surrendered everything for satisfaction of the Supreme. The Chaitanya Charitamrita (Madhya 22.54) says,

“sadhu sanga, sadhu sanga sarva shastra kaya
lava matra sadhu sange sarva siddhi haya”

“The verdict of all revealed scriptures is that by even a moment’s association with a pure devotee, one can attain all success.”

Lord Shiva, in the Padma Purana declares that out of all kinds of worships, the worship of the Supreme Lord Vishnu is the topmost and even greater is to worship the personalities who are devotees of Sri Vishnu. This is because we, conditioned living entities, who are hankering after happiness in innumerable material universes since time immemorial, are unable to even begin appreciating the Supreme Lord who is the ocean of mercy. We, in our conditioned state, are not even qualified to independently approach and taste that Supreme transcendental nectar which is derived by the selfless unmotivated unobstructed loving divine service unto the Supreme. It is His dear devotees who make that compassion and mercy accessible to us. One such Dasi or dearmost servant who is revered throughout the universe is Ekadashi. She is the manifestation of the Lord’s mercy Herself. For the sake of the conditioned souls, Ekadashi manifests as a very special and auspicious day or ‘tithi’ which is also called as Harivasara- the day of Lord Hari.

For those who have been unaware about Ekadashi, this article will certainly help them to know what Ekadashi is and what are the benefits of observing Ekadashi. For the ones who already know the glories of Ekadashi, this article will certainly increase their level of intensity and conviction of Ekadashi observance.


What is Ekadashi?

Ekadashi is the day of Lord Hari. It is a very special and auspicious occasion that occurs twice of every month during which the All Merciful Lord Sri Krishna becomes extra merciful and showers His excessive benediction to whoever performs even slightest of devotional activity unto Him. The devotees of the Lord eagerly wait for this day to intensify their spiritual activities thereby minimizing their material engagements, in order to develop their love and devotion unto the Lord. Ekadashi is a day of austerity wherein the devotees abstain from grains, beans and certain other food items. Originally, the spirit soul is transcendental but due to our association with matter, our consciousness has become polluted. Consequently, it has to be purified. The mind which is more restless than the speediest of the winds needs to be controlled and fixed on the Supreme Lord. Taking up to austerities like Ekadashi fasting enables the devotees to not only purify their consciousness but to develop the devotion for the Supreme. “Eka” means one and “das” means ten, hence Ekadashi means eleven or eleventh day. Ekadashi, thus is observed on the eleventh day from both the waxing and the waning of the moon. Fasting in Sanskrit is referred to as “Upavas”. The true essence of fasting or “upavas” is not just limited to abstaining from food or remaining hungry for a certain duration. The true meaning of fasting lies in the word itself. “Upa” means close and “vas” means to stay. Thus “upavas” means to stay close and Ekadashi upavas means to stay close to Krishna by engaging all our senses unto the devotional service of the Supreme Lord.


Why do we Observe Ekadashi Fasting?

The real and only goal of this human life is to re-establish that eternal relationship which we as spirit souls have with the Supreme Being. In the conditioned state of material life, we have forgotten that eternal relationship and due to our false identification with matter, our consciousness has become contaminated. Our senses ruled over by the unregulated mind drags us towards the endless path of sense gratification which ultimately leads to suffering in this unending cycle of birth, death, disease and old age. This mind needs to be curbed and focused onto the lotus feet of Sri Krishna and the best way to start with is to control the tongue. The tongue performs two important tasks: eating and speaking and if we can restrict the tongue to have only what Krishna instructs as Krishna prasadam then it can be easily controlled. The devotees of the Lord take the most auspicious opportunity on the day of Ekadashi to fast. The central idea behind this is that on the day of Ekadashi, the devotees put behind the basic demands of the body, which includes eating delicious and palatable dishes, and absorb their consciousness in Krishna. It is the day when the devotees intensify their devotional activities and remembrance of Krishna by chanting the Holy names of Krishna, discussing His transcendental pastimes and performing other devotional activities. Ekadashi is very dear to the Lord and hence even a little devotional service performed on this day at once attracts the Lord’s mercy and helps to advance rapidly on the path of unalloyed pure bhakti.

“Suklye va yadi va krsne tad vratam vaisnavam mahat”
“Anybody who fasts on both Ekadasis on both the light and dark fortnights of the month and eats on the next day (Dvadasi), Lord Sri Krsna becomes very pleased with him.”

HARI BHAKTI VILASA 12/5 from MATSYA PURANA and BHAVISYA PURANA


Who can observe Ekadashi Fasting?

As per authoritative Vedic scriptures, all classes of men including women between the age 8 to 80 must observe Ekadashi fasting.

“Asta varsadhiko martyo apurna asiti vatsarah
ekadasyam upavaset paksayor ubhayor api”
“From the age of eight to the age of eighty, a person should fast on all of the Ekadasis on both the light and the dark parts of the month.”

HARI BHAKTI VILASA 12/75 from KATYAYANA SMRTI


What are the benefits of Ekadashi?

  1. Ekadashi fasting is the greatest opportunity to please the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna and advance in devotional service.
  2. Scientifically and biologically, Ekadashi fasting helps in removal of toxins and other harmful acidic chemicals that might have been formed often due to unregulated and mistime diets that is a “gift” of this modern fast-paced era.
  3. It is an auspicious occasion to devote maximum time to spiritual activities which help us advance on the path of bhakti.
  4. In the Brahma-vaivarta Puraṇa it is said that one who observes fasting on Ekadashi day is freed from all kinds of reactions to sinful activities and advances in pious life. The basic principle is not just to abstain from food, but to increase one's faith and love for Govinda, or Kṛṣṇa. The real reason for observing fasting on Ekadashi is to minimize the demands of the body and to engage our time in the service of the Lord by chanting or performing similar service. The best thing to do on fasting days is to remember the pastimes of Govinda and to hear His holy name constantly.
  5. It has been stated in the Padma Purana that even if by trickery one follows Ekadashi fasting, all of his sins are destroyed and he very easily attains the Supreme goal, Vaikuntha.

How to Observe Ekadashi fasting?

General Rules for observance are:

  1. Ekadashi must come in prior to the Arunodaya Viddhi (1hour, 12 mins, before sunrise). When it does so it is called Suddha Ekadashi - pure ekadasi. If it begins after that, it is considered impure and is therefore to be observed on the Dwadashi (making Mahadwadashi or Compounded) on the next day.
  2. If Ekadashi falls on Sunrise two days in a row, fasting is observed on the second day.

Mahadwadasi:

If Mahadvadashi is in force, fasting is prohibited on the Ekadashi, but the observance is done on the Dwadashi. Compound Dwadashi-Mahadwadashi.

  1. If Ekadashi begins after sunrise and ends before sunrise the next day it is considered Lost, too short, thus not full, and impure. Therefore, the next day is called Unmillani Mahadwadashi.
  2. If Dwadashi begins after sunrise and ends before sunrise on the next day (Trayodashi), it is also Lost, and is to be observed as Tri-Sprsa-Mahadwadashi.
  3. If Dwadashi falls on the Sunrise two days in a row the first Dwadashi becomes Vyanjuli Mahadwadashi.
  4. When the following Amavasya or Purnima falls on sunrise two days in a row the preceding Dwadashi becomes Paksa-Vardhini-Mahadwadashi, Paksa based. Parama Ekadashi is in the month of Purushottam.
  5. It has been stated in the Padma Purana that even if by trickery one follows Ekadashi fasting, all of his sins are destroyed and he very easily attains the Supreme goal, Vaikuntha.

Observing Ekadashi Fasting

On the day of Ekadashi, grains are strictly prohibited along with some other specific food items. One must be very careful while using the food products as many of them may contain grains.

There are various levels of observing the fast:

  1. The real and best way to observe Ekadashi is to fast completely without even taking water. This is called nirjala fast.
  2. If one cannot observe a nirjala fast, one can take just water.
  3. If one cannot do that, one can also take fruit and milk. The next option is that, one can take potatoes with rock salt and curd.
  4. The essence is to eat simply, once or twice, so that one can spend as much time as possible hearing, chanting and remembering Sri Sri Radha Krishna. Never eat meat, fish, eggs, onions, garlic, carrots, red lentils (masūr-dal), green flat lentils, mushrooms or products thereof.

Breaking Ekadashi Fast

Ekadashi fast must be broken the next day after sunrise during a specific time duration which is known as paran time. In case of nirjala fast, one can break it by sipping water or having milk or fruits. In case of non-nirjala fast, one can break by having grains. One must be very careful to break the fast only during the specific paran time.


What not to do on Ekadashi?

  1. One must not have grains or any of the foodstuffs that are restricted during Ekadashi observance. In fact, even Vishnu prasadam made from grains is not consumed by devotees. It is kept for breaking the fast on the following day.
  2. One must never indulge into meat eating, intoxication, gambling and illicit sex. These are the basic qualities of a civilized human being and must be followed throughout one’s lifetime.
  3. On the day of Ekadashi, one must try not to indulge in material worldly affairs, but devote maximum time in engaging in the service of the Lord.

Ekadashi is such a beautiful and merciful gift from the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna, given to us so that we can utilize this rarest opportunity of the human form and develop our love for Sri Krishna. That is the perfection of life. Everyone should enthusiastically observe Ekadashi and progress towards attaining the Supreme Goal, the unalloyed, pure loving devotional service of Sri Radha Krishna.

“Na ganga na gaya bhupa na kasi na ca puskaram
na ca api kauravam ksetram na reva nacavedika
yamuna candrabhaga ca tulya bhupa harer dinat
cintamini sama hy esa athavapi nidhih smrta
kalpa padapa preksa va sarva veda upamathava”
“Neither Ganga, Gaya, Kasi, Puskara, Kuruksetra, Reva, Vedika, Yamuna, and Candrabhaga, none of them are equal to the day of Lord Hari, Ekadasi. Oh king, even if one fasts on Ekadasi unknown to others, all of his sins are at once burnt and he easily attains the spiritual world.”

HARI BHAKTI VILASA 12/119,120 from NARADA PURANA spoken by Vasistha Muni



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