Meaning of Sacred Ekaadashi Fast

Ekadashi is very important for all Hindus, as the observance of rituals connected with this occasion is said to take away any sin that the person may have accumulated during the fortnight.

To be able to get rid, of the sins or any wrong deeds every fortnight is very helpful to the five senses. This is similar to the Christians going to their priest for “confession”. Ekadashi has social function as well, just like Sankranti. Even if one does not keep the fast, it is a day for doing charitable deeds. If Ekadashi is observed as a vrat, it can be “nitya” (compulsory) or “kamya” (motivated by desires). In the first case only Shukla Paksha need to be observed. As a kamya- vrat, it can be observed on the both Ekadashi.THE SIGNIFICANCE OF EKADASHI by SRI SWAMI KRISHNANDA Ekadashi is a Sanskrit word, which means 'the eleventh'. It refers to the eleventh day of a fortnight belonging to a lunar month. There are two fortnights in a lunar month-the bright and the dark. So, Ekadashi occurs twice in a month.

The special feature of Ekadashi, as most people know it, is a fast. This is how it is usually understood. 'We do not eat on Ekadashi', is what people understand. In fact, the fast is only a practical expression and a symbol of something else that we are expected to do, which is of special significance to our personality.

Those who know astronomy as something which tells about the inter-relation of the planetary system, the stellar world, would be aware that we form a part of this planetary or solar system. By a system we mean an organism or organization which is methodically arranged. When we know that we belong to the system of planetary motions, which has an organic link. We belong to the solar system-a huge family of which the sun is the head and the planets are the members. Astronomy studies the movements of planets and stars, and ASTROLOGY the effects they produce on the contents of the system.

The Ekadashi observance is an astrological phenomenon and it is observed due to this relation we have with some of the planets in the system. The movement of these planets influences the entire personality of ours. The gravitational pull of planets has an influence on us. The sun is said to influence the center of our personality; hence the sun is called Atmakaraka.

He is. the soul-influences of the human body. In the Rig-veda, the sun is identified with the soul of the universe as well as the soul of the individual. The different limbs of our body and different parts of our system are supposed to be influenced by different planets. The sun is capable of influencing the entire being. He is, thus, the Atmakaraka.

Karaka is doer, manipulator, and director. If there is no sun, we know what difference it makes for us; our digestion becomes sluggish on days when there is no sun. So important is the sun.

The subtle essence of the food, not only directly taken through the mouth but through all senses, contributes to the make up of the mind.

The mind's presiding deity is Moon. Ekadashi is particularly relevant to this relation of Moon and Mind.

You will find that, when you go deep into the study of astronomy, you have nothing in your body except some planetary influences! We are made up of planetary forces and there is nothing independent to call our own.

One part belongs to one planet and another part to another planet. If each planet claims its part, you will disintegrate. The moon influences the mind in its orbital relative movement with reference to other planets and us.

How, is Ekadashi related to the movement of moon and mind? We have certain centers called Chakras in the body. The Chakras are nothing but energy-centers which whirl in some direction as water whirls in a river.

Chakra is a wheel or circular motion. They move in a spiral shape. They are not physical; but psychophysical and psychological. These Chakras are neither in the mind nor in the body; they are in the astral body. The moon's influence physically on the body has an influence on the Chakras, which tells upon the mind ultimately.

The passage of the mind is through these Chakras, up and down. When this operation takes place consciously, it is called Yoga; when done unconsciously by the mind, it is just influence. When the moon waxes or wanes, the mind is mentally influenced.

So people who are not normal in their minds become very bad on the full moon and new-moon days. You cannot see the moon's influence on the earth because it is solid, but it can be seen on the ocean, which is liquid. The moon influences the whole earth, but its influence is visible on the large body of waters in the sea.

This happens due to the two-fold pressure of the relation of the earth and moon. The sun influences the moon and the moon influences the earth. When the influence occurs automatically, we are instruments in the hands of Mother Nature.

When it is done consciously, we are said to practice Yoga. We can be involuntarily dragged from place to place, or we can walk voluntarily. The difference is obvious. The moon's movement tells upon the movement of the mind through the Chakras.

Another important aspect is the seat of the mind which is also twofold. You may be living in many houses, of which one or two are your own. Svasthana means 'One's own place.' The mind has several abodes or centers of energy called Chakras, of which two are its own.

The seats of the mind in this personality of ours are:
1. The subtle spot in the astral body corresponding to the centre of the two eye-brows, in waking, and 2. The heart, in the state of deep sleep. If it is in the brain, it is active and you, then, do not get sleep, because it refuses to go down.

If the mind is midway between the centre of the eyebrows and the heart, it is Dream State. So, there is a twofold centre of the mind,-the Ajna-Chakra, or the centre between the eyebrows, and the Anahata Chakra, or the heart. In both these centres, the mind feels at home and is at ease, because it is nearer to itself. In other centres it is extrovert.

In the Ajna and the Anahata Chakras it finds itself at home. In the two fortnights, in its movement, it finds itself at the Ajna Chakra and the Anahata Chakra on the eleventh day. Since these two Chakras are its own abode, the mind is at home here, i.e., it gets concentrated and collected easily. This has been the experience given out by our ancients, and this has to be taken advantage of by Sadhakas. You are capable of concentration when the mind is naturally in its home. The mind cannot be concentrated when it is out of tune.

So, the Ekadashi day in both fortnights is the occasion when the mind finds itself in its place-in the bright fortnight in the Ajna Chakra, and in dark fortnight in the Anahata Chakra. Seekers and Yogis take advantage of these two days and try to practice deep meditation. Vaishnavas treat Ekadashi as a very holy day and also observe a fast on that day.

Fast and meditation! What is the connection?
There is really no intrinsic connection between fast and meditation, but there is some advantage in keeping the body light and the stomach free from excessive metabolic function.

When the stomach is given the duty of digestion, doctors will tell you, the blood circulation is accelerated towards the digestive organs, on account of which blood circulation to the head gets decreased after food is taken and so you feel sleepy and the thinking faculty practically ceases to function. Hence, there is no advantage in giving the physical system work on days you want to do yogic practice.

Thus, Ekadashi has also a spiritual significance. The energy of the whole system gets distributed equally if a particular limb is not given any inordinate work. If any part is given heavy work, there is a dislocation of the working of the body.
So, in fasting the energy is equally distributed, as the digestive function is not there. But, there should be no overdoing in fast. Fast is supposed to cause buoyancy of feeling and not fatigue. So people who are sick and cannot observe a total fast take milk and fruits, etc. People, who are perfectly healthy and are confident, observe a complete fast. This helps in control of mind and will.
Apart from all these, there is a necessity to give the physiological system some rest once a while. It may be over-worked due to a little over-eating. These irregularities unconsciously done during the fourteen days get rectified in one day.

Thus the observance of Ekadashi has many advantages-physical, astral, spiritual-and because this day has connection with the relation of the mind with its abode together with the moon, you feel mysteriously helped in your meditation and contemplation, mysteriously because you cannot know this consciously. But you can feel this for yourself by observing it. In India everything is interpreted spiritually.

The eleventh day after a new Moon or full Moon the Vrat observed on this day is called the Ekadashi DAY.
In all 24 Ekadashi fasts are observed in a year. It is believed that Lord Vishnu transformed himself into Ekadashi to alleviate the mankind from sins. It is day looked upon Lord Hari himself.

According to the Puranas, a demon named called Mura, who had 7,000 sons, harassed the gods. The gods asked Vishnu for protection against Mura; Vishnu sent his Yog Maya (Indriyas) to kill the demon and his sons, and these was done successfully.

Lord Hari granted Yoga Maya a boon, and said “Those who observe Ekadashi will be freed from all sins, and you will be called by the name Ekadashi.” Since the demon was created from the sweat that fell down from the head of Brahma it assumed the from of a demon and said to the Lord, “O Lord! Now give me an abode to dwell”. Brahma replied, “O demon! Go and dwell in the rice particles and cereals eaten by men on Ekadashi day and become worms in their stomach.” This is a short story as narrated in our Holy Scriptures.All Hindus between eight and eighty years should fast on the Ekadashi days.

On Ekadashi day, one must not let anger; lust and enjoyment come in the way of this fast. Those who observe the Ekadashi fast should avoid sexual acts on the dasami day, the day proceeding Ekadashi.
In this Kali Yuga, even if one Ekadashi is observed with dispassion, faith and devotion, and if the mind is wholly fixed on Hari, one is freed from the rounds of birth and death.

The puranas and dharmasastras, though prohibit the par taking of cooked on Ekadashi days, have made many concessions to the general people towards their weakness towards food. If one eats only once in the day around noon, it is called “ekabhukta”, if only in the night it is called “nakta”, when food is taken once a day, it is called “ayacita”.Devotees fast on this day, do Japa, Hari kirtan and meditation. Some even, do not take even a drop of water. Those who are unable to fast completely can take some light fruits and milk.

Fasting controls passion. It checks the emotions and controls the senses. It is a great penance and purifies the mind and the heart. Fasting overhauls the respiratory, circulatory, digestive and urinary systems.

If one can not fast for the full 24hrs, at least fast for 10-12 hrs and then take some milk and fruit. And the gradually increase the fast to 15 hrs and then to 24hrs.

Fasting makes a person strong, both mentally and spiritually. For those who are ill and are not able bodied certain foods known as the farari foods are allowed. These include tubers (potatoes, cassava, carrots, turnips, dairy products, fruits, and nuts. Foods made from cereals are forbidden. On the preceding day that is on the 10th tithi; Sandhya is performed and then only one meal is taken.

In the evening Vishnu is worshipped, holding some durva grass in the hand. One has to approach religion and the scriptures with great faith, reverence and purity of heart.

The period that combines with Ekadashi with Dvadasi (12th day) is Harivasara because of the Vishnu in this tithi. This is good time to do sacred yajnas.

If Dvadasi touches the days of the Ekadashi and Trayodhesi Tithis, fasting should be kept on the day which is wholly Dvadasi, and the Paranan on the Trayodhasi day, when Dvadasi ends.

WHEN the duration of Ekadashi be less then that of Dvadasi, fasting should be done on the Dvadasi. The day which combines with Dvadasi into 13th is the best day for breaking the fast.

When an Ekadashi comes on a Pushya day in the Shukla Paksha, this day should be observed. The wise extols this day as one promising crores of good effects on the person.

On observing the Ekadashi day you should do Vishnu Puja which is productive of universal happiness. It is said the people will acquire good children and wealth in this world and attain Vishnuloka upon death.

A person physically unable to fast may ask his spouse or one of his family members to observe Ekadashi for his sake. The reward for fasting is only obtained when the person fasts for the whole day (24 hours).

NOTE: Parents or Elder’s Shraddha days (death anniversary) should not be performed on the Ekadashi day, it should be put off to the next tithi, Dvadasi, as this does not give Shanti to the Pitrus.

NOTE: A person under going through periods, should as usual, have his bath on the Ekadashi day, and should do mentally worship of Vishnu and keep the fast on this day. This rule applies also applies to women who should abstain from the usual food on the Ekadashi, though they may happen to be in periods at that time.

In all cases of uncertainty as to the exact day for fasting, it is better abstain from food on Dvadasi day and breakfast on the next day.