For most of us, Ekadasi holds special meaning, varying inevitably from region to region. For some it means celebrations, for few, it interprets as fasting. When I mention celebration, the implication is on the varieties of food prepared to celebrate Ekadasi, to savour after the fast is over !!!!
Ekadasi, we all know is the 11th day – from Purnima (Shukla Ekadasi) and from Amavasya (Krishna Ekadasi). Thus we have two ekadasi’s in a lunar month, one is each fortnight. Our festivals are aligned with the movement of Sun and the angle subtended by Moon. In this combination that holds Sun and Moon causing Ekadasi, the seers have noted the direct influence on the mind of a person. In this context, abstaining from food brings in discipline and a forceful injunction on oneself. Apart from cleaning the toxins of the body, the sublime joy of ‘observing a fast’ brings in healthier and devotional fervour as well.
Sun, the source of life, the source of all knowledge is thus worshiped by us – earthly mortals, as we are governed by the rules of Solar System. Moon, the significator of mind, plays a vital role in maintaining the ‘moods’ and ‘attitude’! In this context, keeping a control on oneself is easier on these specific days, for the one who is lives in worldly existence.
However – fasting, as I understand, is not just abstaining from ‘food’ that we commonly know! Keeping the mind steady on the Supreme is the primary purpose of Ekadasi. Eating light and keeping a portion of the stomach empty, would help to keep one light and comfortable. Thus, one keeps off from laziness and sloth. Fasting of the senses, keeps one off from continuously indulging in sense pleasures. Spending more and more time with one self – in one’s chosen path – brings in sublime unfading joy.
Pousha Ekadasi comes up when Sun is in a powerful sign of Sagittarius, brings in added flavor for a seeker.
Sri Ramkrishna, the Master, hardly advocated fasting – especially by women. He would often ask them to eat in small quantities instead of abstaining from food completely. He would, however ask many to observe Ekadasi – keeping control on food, not just of the mouth but also of all the senses as well. This was for seekers, for those riding the waves of worldly life yet desirous of the Supreme.
One day, a devotee asked Bhagwan Raman Mahrshi, the purport behind such fasting.
Bhagavan replied: “All these things are only to control the senses. In a fasting person, the senses will be more subdued and will not go out, and the mind will be non-vacillating. But best thing is to control the mind.
Where is the mind?
Where is the body?
Where is the Jiva?
It is all in the Self.
Food alone does not make up one’s determinations, thoughts. The very “fasting” of determinations, doubts and thoughts alone would control the mind. Even otherwise we are the Self. All these ideas, are only to be in the Self. If the Self is understood, all food controls are unnecessary.”
Till one is settled in such a state – like an un-flickering lamp, discipline helps to hold the straying mind and senses.