This Post deals with the EKADASI FAST TIME VARIATIONS: Why One day of Ekadasi fast instead of two days?
Sweta Ganguly asked like this:
“Hare krishna. Prabhu I am really struggling hard to explain some people that Ekdashi fasting is kept only for one day and not for 2 days. They are saying showing me tithi that at “7pm 8th october ekadashi is starting and then next day 7:52 is getting over. Then previous whole day then the next day you have to keep the fast.”
When I said ISKCON does not do like this. They start from morning and the next day during a certain timing according to tithi they break it. On this they are saying “that ISKCON is following something own. They are making the timings according to their convinience, which should not be done.
Am confused prabhuji. Please help. What to say?
What they said is right in actual terms.
ACTUAL RECOMMENDED WAY OF FASTING
(A) START OF EKADASI FAST:
(1) Actual ekadasi fast should be followed between the start of ekadasi thithi and the end of ekadasi thithi.
(2) Actually, there should be no food in the stomach at the time of the start of ekadasi thithi. That is why, it is advised to start fasting atleast 4 hours before the start of ekadasi thithi.
(3) So, on safer side, it is advised to start ekadasi fast from the dasami thithi itself (previous thithi).
They abstain from the food, fruits, etc from the lunch of dasami thithi. They take only the breakfast on dasami thithi and fast till the ekadasi thithi ends.
(4) However, they can take water in required quantities except for Nirjala ekadasi that requires abstaining from water also.
This comes to about 2 full days.
(B) BREAKING THE EKADASI FAST:
As per the actual rules, one should not break ekadasi fast just by taking the food. They should follow the following steps:
(1) After the end of ekadasi thithi, one should take bath first.
(2) Then, he should offer worship and food to Krishna/ Vishnu.
(3) Then, he should offer food/ prasadam to atleast a poor Brahmana or Vaishnava.
(4) After that, he should first take water to prepare the stomach to accept the food.
(5) After that, he should take some fruits.
(6) Finally, he should take cooked/ offered food.
This is the recommended system of ekadasi fasting.
WHY JUST ONE DAY FAST NOW A DAYS?
In those days, only those who were the brahmanas and vaishnavas observed ekadasi fasting.
Their only business was vedic service or devotional service to Lord Krishna/ Vishnu that did not require much physical works.
Mostly, they were indoor jobs.
So, they could manage such two days fasting those days.
Only a few people from other varnas observed fasting those days.
So, fasting for two days was not a big issue for them.
Now, even brahmanas travel in vehicles to other places to perform vedic rituals. Even the vaishnavas travel, preach, worship and also work in the govt, companies, business, etc.
This requires travel and heavy physical performance.
So, they exhaust fast.
They need some strength to perform their duties.
They can’t apply leave for 2+2=4 days a month.
So, we need to follow an alternate method of fasting.
Hence this 24 hours fasting.
Fasting for ekadasi is also a type of penance of sacrificing our favourite eatables for the Lord. This also purifies our consciousness. Additionally, this fasting keeps our body free from digestion related and some other diseases.
No other purpose for fasting.
So, according to our present life style and pressures of the people, it is recommended for 24 hours only.
WHICH 24 HOURS TO CHOOSE FOR FASTING?
This is another question.
As said in the beginning, actual ekadasi fast should be followed between the start of ekadasi thithi and the end of ekadasi thithi.
If you can know the exact starting and ending time of ekadasi, you can observe fasting exactly during the ekadasi thithi.
How many people have such a calender that shows the starting and ending time of ekadasi thithi?
Thithi time varies from zone to zone.
America is just below India at the other side of the earth. Similarly, many countries are situated in different positions on the globe.
So, every zone needs exact timings of start and end of ekaddasi thithi.
Since this may be difficult for them, it is recommended to start during the sun rise on ekadasi thithi and end during the sun rise of the next day.
Vaishnavas follow the day in which ekadasi thithi is existing during the sun rise.
Other sampradhayas observe on the day in which ekadasi thithi is existing most of the time.
This is the difference.
They can work out a common procedure.
But, they may not be ready for that.
So, it is better to observe on the day recommended as per the sampradhaya you belong to.
Or, if you can know the exact starting and ending time of ekadasi, you can observe fasting exactly during the ekadasi thithi. Indian calender gives the exact time of start and end of all thithis daily. Other countries can follow any 24 hours as per the recommendation of the sampradhaya or sathsangha they follow. No issues.
This 24 hours is your choice.
The point is, you sacrifice your favourite food for a 24 hours for Krishna. That’s all.
The day may vary. But, the purpose is common.
So, to avoid confusion, follow any 24 hours (approx.) during ekadasi as per a recommendation.
Krishna will accept it. He sees only your heart, not the external factors.
However, it is advisable to start fasting atleast one hour before the start of ekadasi thithi or sunrise whichever system you follow.
If you are connected with ISKCON, just follow at the time recommended in Vaishnava calender. It is good and will avoid confusion.
You can break the fast as recommended above. If you don’t get any Brahmana or Vaishnava to offer food, no issues. You can skip that alone during breaking and help them at any time or day, if possible. It is always good to feed a Brahmana or Vaishnava or atleast donate them something on any day of month.
Hope this helps.
The following two posts on ekadasi procedure may also be helpful for you:
(1) A-Z Tips on Ekadasi Fasting with practical considerations.
(2) How to offer worship and prayers on ekadasi.
(3) EKADASI RECEIPS – THE FOODS TO BE PREPARED ON EKADASI