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How different are fasting rules and benefits of Ekadashi?

It was our school alumni meeting. Therefore, with all the good old memories, we were discussing how simple and funny our lives were. After that, it was time for us to have lunch. Besides, we had one more topic to discuss. Discussion on the place of lunch. However, one of our friends brought to our notice about one very important thing. The very fact that it was an Ekadashi and that he was on Upavasa (fasting). He started explaining to us why he does that…let us see what he says.

Ekadashi in Sanskrit is Eleven. In other words, it refers to the eleventh day in the lunar calendar month. Moreover, the moon waxes and wanes once in every fortnight. The important feature of Ekadashi is fasting. Though, the significance is not just confined to it. However, it is also an essential element. Let us learn here, the deeper aspects of Ekadashi that many of us miss knowing.

Please watch the below video with line drawings.

Three thousand years ago, the Greek Physician Hippocrates told: “Continuous intake of food without elimination of waste materials from the body is deleterious to one’s health and fasting is the best natural remedy”. Inspired by this, western countries have done a lot of research. However, most of their research is confined just about how to fast. For instance,

Dry fasting

Also known as absolute fast, black fast, and Hebrew fast. It is a kind of fasting where we stop both eating and drinking. But, this lasts for very short periods and does not suggest on elongated fasting

Liquid fasting

As the name indicates, this type of fasting is just about fasting, with liquids. However, there are a lot of options though.

Water fasting

Here, fasting only restricts the person to consume water. This has a lot of benefits. Moreover, we have seen numerous westerners, observing this. On the other hand, this might go on till five days. It cleanses most of the toxins from the body.

Partial Fasting

Partial Fast

This is also called by the name, selective fasting. It ranges from anywhere between a very little to a lot of solid food. There could be some restrictions, like no grain, no meat, no sweets, etc.

However, what we spoke about is mostly related just to food consumption. Whereas, our ancestors in India had figured out much more than this. For instance, coming out with a specific duration of a calendar, that might provide us with the maximum benefit. That is when Ekadashi comes into the picture. Besides, the calendar that has a reference to Ekadashi is called the Lunar Calendar, followed in many parts of the nation.

Ekadashi Fasting and Lunar Calendar

As mentioned above, in Sanskrit, Ekadashi means Eleven. In the lunar calendar, it is the eleventh day of a fortnight. The moon according to science revolves around the earth once every 29.5 days. Further, there are two fortnights and two Ekadashis in a lunar month – they are bright (closer to the full moon day) and Dark (closer to the new moon day). What could be the connection between Moon and Food? Well, fasting is not the ultimate thing to be done on an Ekadashi. It has other deeper aspects. The fast is only a practical expression of something else that we have to concentrate more on.

Role of Astrology in Ekadashi Fasting

Astronomy is something that tells us about the planets’ interrelation. We are also a part of the planetary system, though we are very small. In other words, we are also a part of the planetary motions. So, we cannot be separate ourselves from this system. A system could be an organism or an organization. It should be in a rapport and interrelated.
The difference between Astronomy and Astrology is as follows.

  • Astronomy studies the movements of heavenly bodies
  • Astrology studies the effects of heavenly bodies on us

Planets and heavenly bodies are not mere objects that are above our heads. They contribute a lot to our well being and affect us.

You can read this book on Astrology for more information on how celestial bodies influence us and learn them.

Sun and its influence

I am sure you would not be knowing this. You would have always thought that Sun does not move and is static in the sky. But, you are wrong. Sun moves in a particular way with all the planets in the solar system, like how moon revolves the earth. It is very clear here that, without influencing the planets, they cannot move in an inter related way.

Also, the sun influences the earth and us in a very obvious way. Hence, it is called as Atmakaraka. Sun is the Soul-influencer of the human body. Atma is referred to as Soul and Karaka is the doer.

Similarly, the closest heavenly body to earth is the moon. Sun influences the moon and in turn moon influences earth. As everyone knows about the tidal waves getting into their peaks when the moon is present full-fledged. Moon influences water as it is not strong enough to influence solid. The five elements are present both outside and inside us. Whatever influences planets influence earth, that is our environment, and us. The gravitational pull has a great influence on us.

Moon, Mind, and Ekadashi

The moon influences our mind. The mind is the subtle portion of the material substance of our food. It is at a very subtler level. The mind is not formed from what is directly consumed through the mouth but all senses. Minds presiding deity is the moon. This is the very reason that connects Ekadashi, the moon and Mind. So, let us get into that part, which talks about how Ekadashi is related to the movement of the moon and mind.

Chakras, their Places on Ekadashi day

Swasthana Chakra

The connection is very subtler. The human body comprises energy centers called Chakras. Chakras whirl like how water whirls in a river. They move in a spiral shape. Their existence cannot be touched or felt directly, as they belong to the astral body. The mind uses these six Chakras as a medium to move from one place to another. The involuntary movement of Chakras is just an influence that it bestows upon us. Conscious operation is called Yoga. However, the moon influences the mind vehemently. So, abnormal minds get negatively influenced both on the new moon and full moon days. By consciously practicing yoga, we can avoid such things.

Like human beings, the mind also has homes, which is twofold. When the mind comes to its home, which will be a Chakra, it is in its Svasthana. Their home is an energy point, Chakra, of which two are of its own. The two Swasthanas of the mind are:

Ajna Chakra

The subtle center spot in the astral body in between the two eye-brows. While the mind is in this Chakra, we do not tend to get sleep, as it will not get down easily.

Anahat Chakra

This happens when the heart is in a state of deep sleep. This state of the mind is the dream state.

When the mind is in the Chakras mentioned above, it feels homely and will be at ease, because it is nearer to itself. In other Chakras, it does not feel homely. It becomes an extrovert. For the mind to come to the homely places, Ajna Chakra and Anahat Chakra, it takes a fortnight. In other words, the mind finds itself in its place on this day of the fortnight, i.e. on the Ekadashi. So, when it is at its home, the mind can be made use of in a beautiful way and it will be in tune with us. Seekers take advantage of these two days and meditate.

Ekadashi Fasting and Meditation

Meditation on Ekadashi

Now, what is the connection between fasting and meditation? There is no natural connection between the two. However, it supports in two major ways.

  • keeps the body light
  • stomach stays free from excessive metabolic activity

When the stomach is on duty, it is tough for us to digest the food that we eat. It activates blood circulation and makes it gush towards the digestive system and other related organs. On account of this, the blood circulation towards the head decreases. This is the reason, after a heavy meal we tend to feel sleepy. Unless, we know a way to deliberately channelize the blood circulation towards the head, which is highly likely. Hence, there is no advantage of giving the physical system to work for no reason. Instead, fasting equalizes the blood circulation and energy sent to the entire body.

Other benefits of Fasting on Ekadashi

There are many other benefits when you fast:

  • The physiological system gets some rest. Otherwise, the overworked system, in the other fourteen days, takes rest
  • Directly attributes to the control of senses. There is a natural control over senses when we can win over hunger
  • Contributes to making a man, divine
  • It helps in reducing Aama, which is specifically, Raw, Unripe, Undigested, Un-annealed food, that blocks bodies channels and organs. More on Ayurveda here and here.
  • Stops diseases from entering the body
  • Purifies all internal organs

What is the ideal procedure to fast on Ekadashi?

  • Ekadashi is a three-day Vrat (observance), which starts from Dashami, the previous day. Subsequently, it concludes on Dwadashi, the next day
  • If we consume three meals a day, then on Dasmami and Ekadashi confine it to two
  • Ideal Ekadashi says a strict no to any form of food. If we observe Nirjala (no water) Upavasa (fasting), then not even water.
  • All these days, meditation and remembering a god you like comes at the top of the list
  • Breaking of fast should be done within the mentioned time, sometimes this may be in the afternoon of Dwadashi
  • If it is due to illness, or old-age, fasting can be compromised, however, no grains and tamasik food

“Thus the observance of Ekadashi benefits us in Physical, Astral and Spiritual ways. It has a connection with the relation of mind to the moon. You can feel this once you start observing”, he said. Guess what. We all skipped lunch that day and went back to our respective places.

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