What is Vaikunta Ekadashi?
Vaikuntha Ekadashi (Shukla Paksha Ekadashi) is the 11th day in the lunar cycle (towards full moon) of Dhanu month (December). Vaikuntha Ekadashi is the most important of the Ekadashis. It is believed that this is the day when the door to Vaikuntha is opened, and those who die on that day will attain salvation. It is also believed to be on this day that Lord Krishna taught Arjuna the philosophy of life and death through the Bhagavad Gita when Arjuna suffered from depression during the Battle of Kurukshetra. Hence the Ekadashi day is also celebrated as Geetha Jayanti festival day.
Story of Ekadashi
Legend says that when a demon called Muran tried to slay Vishnu, who was sleeping, a female power emerged from Vishnu and burned Muran to ashes with her glance. Vishnu, who was pleased, named the goddess ‘Ekadashi’ and asked her to claim a boon. Ekadashi, instead, beseeched Vishnu that people who observed a fast on that day should be redeemed of their sins. Vishnu thus declared that people who observed a fast on that day and worshipped Ekadashi, would attain Vaikuntha. Thus came into being the first Ekadashi, which was a Dhanurmasa Shukla Paksha Ekadashi. It is also said that Lord Krishna advised the Gita to Arjuna on this auspicious day.
The demon Muran stands for the Rajasic and Tamasic qualities in people, attributed to lust, passion, inertia, arrogance etc. When one conquers these tendencies, one attains the purity of mind, Satva, indispensable for attaining of moksha, the liberation or realization of the self. Fasting helps to keep at bay tendencies which could be triggered by intake of certain foods. Keeping vigil in the night is symbolic of awareness, or being watchful of the contents of the mind. When the mind is looked at, it becomes still.
The belief that rice is prohibited, because Muran dwells in it, symbolically signifies that the eating of rice makes one feel heavy and hampers the vigil. This signifies that entertaining negative tendencies could hamper one’s progress towards awareness or consciousness.
SCIENCE BEHIND EKADASHI
Meanwhile according to modern science, it is known that the air pressure on our planet varies to extreme limits on both the new moon (Amavasya) and the full moon (Purnima) day. This is because of the orbital path combination of the sun, moon and earth. This can be observed by the change in the nature of the tidal waves on the new moon and full moon days. The waves are very high and rough on these days.
Power of Ekadashi
Now, based on this fact, the significance of Ekadashi fasting can be explained in 2 ways:
- According to science, it takes about 3-4 days for the food that we eat today to reach our brain. Now, if we eat light/fast on Ekadashi days, that intake will reach the brain correspondingly on the New moon/full moon day. On both of these days, the earth pressure is at its maximum, thus leading to imbalance in everything, including ones thought process. So, if the input to the brain is at a minimum, the chances of the brain indulging in any wayward activity due to the high pressure imbalance also becomes minimum.
- Another explanation for the Ekadashi fasting is that compared to any other day of the moon cycle, the atmospheric pressure is the lowest on the Ekadashi days. Thus, this is the best time to fast and cleanse the bowel system. If we fast on any other day, the high pressure/strain may damage our system. Thus, it is advisable that after fasting on the Ekadashi, on the immediate next day (Dwadashi), we get up early and eat as soon as possible.
As per both the above theories, the fasting practice on the Ekadashi days has a strong scientific base. People who observe the fast are asked to stay away from all types of grains, and to have a light diet of nuts, milk, fruits, etc.
Fasting gives the system a rest. The physiological system may become overworked due to a little overeating or indiscrimination in diet. Thus the fortnightly Ekadashi fasting gives the system a chance to catch up. We know that the digestive system draws the blood circulation towards the digestive organs. Therefore blood circulation to the head is decreased once food is taken: so we feel sleepy. Thus observance of Ekadashis helps us recharge our brain and mind keeping us more alert, sharp, focused and more aware. The fortnightly Ekadashi fasting accompanied with healthy eating improves insulin responsiveness, lowers blood cholesterol and prolongs life span. It helps improve the mental stability of people suffering from anxiety and depression. It also detoxifies the body, cleanses the blood and improves the functioning of kidneys and liver.
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[…] are about 24 Ekadashis in a year and the Vaikunta Ekadasi is considered very sacred. Here’s our blog that narrates the story behind Vaikunta […]
[…] The following are the points extolling greatness of fasting on Ekadashi and the benefits that accrue to the devotee who strictly observes the fast. But before you proceed, do take a look at our post on Vaikunta Ekadashi. […]