Lunar Rhythms & Mindful Fasting: Discussing the Meaning of Ekadashi
Updated: Apr 26
In the hustle and bustle of modern life, it's easy to forget the subtle yet profound influence the moon has on our well-being. Just as the moon affects the waters of the Earth, it also impacts our bodies, which are composed of around 70% water. This connection to the lunar cycles has been celebrated and revered for millennia by various spiritual traditions across the globe, not just in Indian culture. One such ancient practice is Ekadashi fasting, which involves abstaining from food on the eleventh day (Ekadashi) of each lunar fortnight.
Planning life around lunar cycles has been a practice of numerous cultures throughout history. The Kemetians (today known as ancient Egyptians), used lunar calendars to track time and held rituals that were closely tied to the moon's phases. Similarly, the people of ancient Madagascar recognized the moon's influence on the natural world and planned their daily activities, such as farming and fishing, accordingly. This reverence for the moon's power can also be found in all ancient cultures.
These diverse societies recognized the importance of synchronizing their lives with the moon's natural rhythms, leading to practices like Ekadashi fasting, which seeks to harness the spiritual and physical benefits of aligning with lunar cycles.
By observing the different types of Ekadashi fasts and understanding
the significance of Shukla Paksha and Krishna Paksha Ekadashis, one can embark on a transformative journey of self-discovery and spiritual awakening that transcends cultural boundaries. Embracing the wisdom of ancient cultures and their connection to the moon's cycles can lead to a deeper appreciation of the interconnectedness of all life on Earth and the universe beyond.
Types of Ekadashi Fasting
Ekadashi fasting is a deeply personal and transformative experience that can be tailored to one's willpower and physical strength. Religious texts mention four types of Ekadashi fasting:
Jalahar (जलाहर) - Fasting with only water. This type of fasting is commonly observed during Nirjala Ekadashi, although it can be practiced on all Ekadashi fasts.
Ksheerbhoji (क्षीरभोजी) - Fasting on Ksheer, which refers to milk and milk-based products. Devotees consume only milk-derived items during this fast.
Phalahari (फलाहारी) - Fasting on fruits only. Devotees consume high-quality fruits like mangoes, grapes, bananas, almonds, and pistachios, and avoid leafy vegetables.
Naktabhoji (नक्तभोजी) - Having a single meal in a day just before sunset, without grains, cereals, beans, wheat, rice, or pulses. The staple diet for this fast includes sabudana, singhada (water caltrop, also known as chestnut), shakarkandi, potatoes, and groundnuts.
While some people consider kuttu atta (buckwheat flour) and samak (millet rice) as staple items for a single Ekadashi meal, their validity as Ekadashi foods is debatable. These items are considered semi-grains or pseudo grains and are best avoided during fasting.
Shukla Paksha Ekadashi vs. Krishna Paksha Ekadashi
In the lunar calendar, each month is divided into two fortnights, known as Shukla Paksha and Krishna Paksha. Shukla Paksha is the waxing phase of the moon, yang energy, symbolizing growth, illumination, and prosperity. Krishna Paksha, the waning phase, represents introspection, endings, and yin energy.
Ekadashi fasting during Shukla Paksha is believed to bring blessings of wealth, success, and overall well-being. In contrast, Krishna Paksha Ekadashi fasting focuses on introspection, forgiveness, and the removal of negative energy. Both types of Ekadashi fasts share the common goal of spiritual nourishment and a strengthened connection to the divine.
Ekadashi fasting is an ancient practice that harnesses the power of the lunar cycles to bring spiritual nourishment, personal growth, and a deeper connection to the divine. As just one of the 15 tithis in each phase of the moon, Ekadashi holds a unique and powerful position within this lunar cycle. By observing the different types of Ekadashi fasts and understanding the significance of Shukla Paksha and Krishna Paksha.