Ekadasi (literally, “the eleventh day”) refers to two days a month: the eleventh day after the new moon and the eleventh day after the full moon. Scriptures say that ekadasi is a most favorable time for increasing spiritual practices and minimizing bodily needs. Krishna devotees fast on these days in order to spend more time hearing and chanting about Krishna.

Traditionally, all Vaishnavas abstain from grains and beans on Ekadasi, taking only water, milk, or fruits. Many fast completely from all food and water. With the time saved by avoiding any elaborate cooking arrangements, some chant extra japa and/or spend more time reading Srimad-Bhagavatam or other scriptures. Some gather together and chant Krishna-kirtan all night or engage in extra Deity service.

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Srila Prabhupada introduced the observance of Ekadasi in the course of establishing the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. He himself fasted from grains and beans every Ekadasi and encouraged his disciples to follow his example. He suggested putting all other activities aside on Ekadasi— except most urgent business—in favor of extra chanting and hearing about Krishna. For practicality, he recommended light meals consisting of nuts, root vegetables, seeds and milk products.

Following Ekadasi is said to help us 1) get relief from negative karma, 2) advance in bhakti-yoga (spiritual consciousness), 3) increase our faith and love for the Supreme Person, and 4) develop a desire to gain admission into the spiritual world. It can also improve health by giving our digestive system a break every two weeks.

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We like to quote our sources. This page is based on the following:

  • Srimad-Bhagavatam, 9.4.29, Purport: “To observe Ekadasi-vrata and Dvadasi-vrata means to please the Supreme Personality of Godhead.Those interested in advancing in Krishna consciousness must observe Ekadasi-vrata regularly. “
  • Bhagavad-gita As It Is, 9.14, Purport: “In devotional service there are certain activities which are called determined, such as fasting on certain days, like the eleventh day of the moon, Ekadasi, and on the appearance day of the Lord. All these rules and regulations are offered by the great acharyas for those who are actually interested in getting admission into the association of the Supreme Personality of Godhead in the transcendental world. The mahatmas, great souls, strictly observe all these rules and regulations, and therefore they are sure to achieve the desired result.”
  • Srimad-Bhagavatam, 11.12.1-2, Purport: “. . . it is definitely concluded that such vows as fasting on Ekadasi are imperative for Vaishnavas. It is further stated in Vedic literature, “If due to negligence a Vaishnava does not fast on Ekadasi, then his worship of Lord Vishnu is useless, and he will go to hell.” The members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness fast from grains and beans on Ekadasi, and this vow should always be observed by all of its members.”
  • Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi-lila, 15.9: “His [Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s] mother replied, ‘My dear son, I will give You whatever You ask.’ Then the Lord said, ‘My dear mother, please do not eat grains on the Ekadasi day.’ “
  • Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi-lila, 15.9, Purport: “From the very beginning of His childhood life Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu introduced the system of observing a fast on the Ekadasi day. In the Bhakti-sandarbha, by Srila Jiva Goswami, there is a quotation from the Skanda Purana admonishing that a person who eats grains on Ekadasi becomes a murderer of his mother, father, brother and spiritual master, and even if he is elevated to a Vaikuntha planet, he falls down.
    On Ekadasi, everything is cooked for Vishnu, including regular grains and dhal, but it is enjoined that a Vaishnava should not even take Vishnu-prasadam on Ekadasi. It is said that a Vaishnava does not accept anything eatable that is not offered to Lord Vishnu, but on Ekadasi a Vaishnava should not touch even maha-prasadam offered to Vishnu, although such prasadam may be kept for being eaten the next day. It is strictly forbidden for one to accept any kind of grain on Ekadasi, even if it is offered to Lord Vishnu.”
  • Nectar of Devotion, chapter 7: “In the Brahma-vaivarta Purana it is said that one who observes fasting on Ekadasi day is freed from all kinds of reactions to sinful activities and advances in pious life. The basic principle is not just to fast, but to increase one’s faith and love for Govinda, or Krishna. The real reason for observing fasting on Ekadasi is to minimize the demands of the body and to engage our time in the service of the Lord by chanting or performing similar service. The best thing to do on fasting days is to remember the pastimes of Govinda and to hear His holy name constantly.”
  • Teachings of Lord Chaitanya, Chapter Twelve, Par. 12: “. . . One should generally accept the following principles to properly execute devotional service: … (9) observe fasting on Ekadasi day. (This occurs on the eleventh day after the full moon and the eleventh day after the new moon. On such days no grains, cereals or beans are eaten; simply vegetables and milk are moderately taken, and chanting Hare Krishna and reading scriptures are increased.)”
  • Srimad-Bhagavatam, 11.27.35: “According to Srila Sridhara Swami, Ekadasi is an appropriate day for performing special Deity worship. “
  • Srimad-Bhagavatam, 1.17.38, Purport: “The state which wants to eradicate corruption by majority may introduce the principles of religion in the following manner:
    Two compulsory fasting days in a month, if not more (austerity). Even from the economic point of view, such two fasting days in a month in the state will save tons of food, and the system will also act very favorably on the general health of the citizens. . .”
  • Srila Prabhupada, in a letter to Jadurani dasi, July 7, 1971: “Real Ekadasi means fasting and chanting and no other business. When one observes fasting, the chanting becomes easier. So on Ekadasi other business can be suspended as far as possible unless there is some urgent business. “