Ekadashi is the eleventh day of the moon cycle, both from the Purnima (full moon) and from the Amavasya (new moon). Well-known as the day of Lord Hari, this is celebrated as one of the highly auspicious days suitable for fasting.
Who should observe Ekadashi vrata?
Ekadashi should be observed by all classes of people including women. According to scriptures, from the age of eight to the age of eighty, a person should fast on Ekadashi days.
What are the foods forbidden on Ekadashi?
Food grains, cereals and beans (pulses) must be avoided on Ekadashi.
While spices can be used for cooking, mustard seeds should be avoided.
You cannot use powdered asafoetida (hing), since it generally contains grains.
As far as sesame seeds are concerned, they may be used only on Sat-tila Ekadashi.
Take care not to use any cooking ingredients which may be mixed with grains. For example, avoid ghee which you have used to fry puris, and spices which you have touched with hands dusted with chapati flour.
You cannot take even Vishnu-prasadam containing the above forbidden foods. But such prasadam may be kept to be honored the following day.
Different levels of observing Ekadashi
Ekadashi may be observed in different levels as given below and one may choose a particular level of fasting depending on one’s age, health and various other factors pertaining to one’s lifestyle.
The real way to observe Ekadashi is to fast completely without even taking water. This is called nirjala fast.
If you cannot observe a nirjala fast, you can take just water.
If you cannot do that, you can also take a little fruit and milk.
The next option is that you can also take other non-grain foods like vegetables (except onion and garlic), roots, nuts, varai, sabudana, etc., only once during the fast.
The last option is to take the above items three times like on a regular day.
How do we observe Ekadashi vrata?
We observe Ekadashi from sunrise to sunrise.
During Ekadashi, try to engage your time in the spiritual activities such as –
Remembering the pastimes of Lord Krishna or His different incarnations.
Chanting Hare Krishna maha-mantra as many times as possible.
Reading scriptures like Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Visiting a temple of Lord Vishnu/Krishna.
The purpose and benefits of Ekadashi
Fasting on days such as Ekadashi is meant for reducing the fat within the body which otherwise induces more sleep, inactiveness and laziness.
On Ekadashi, more time can be utilized for spiritual activity. In this way, one can achieve both external and internal purity.
The real purpose of fasting on Ekadashi as increasing one’s faith and love for Krishna. By observing a fast on Ekadashi, we can minimize the bodily demands and engage our time in the service of the Lord by chanting the Hare Krishna mantra or performing similar service.
Observing Ekadashi vrata pleases the Supreme Personality of Godhead and by its regular observance, one makes advancement in Krishna consciousness.
In the Brahma-vaivarta Purana 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.
Padma Purana states that one should follow Ekadashi especially since even if one by trickery follows Ekadashi, all of his sins become destroyed and he very easily attains the supreme goal, the abode of Vaikuntha.
Breaking an Ekadashi fast
Ekadashi fast must be broken next day after the sunrise.
If you have not observed a nirjala fast (a complete fast without even water), it should be broken by taking grains.
In the case of a nirjala fast, you can break it with even non-grain items like milk or fruits.