Yudhiṣṭhira Mahārāja said, “O Śrī Kṛṣṇa, what is the name of the Ekādaśī that occurs during the dark fortnight of the month of Pauṣa [December-January]? How is it observed, and which Deity is to be worshipped on that day? Please narrate this to me fully, O Janārdana.”
The Supreme Personality of Godhead replied, “O best of kings, because you desire to hear, I shall fully describe to you the glories of the Pauṣa-kṛṣṇa Ekādaśī.
“I do not become as pleased by sacrifice or charity as I do by My devotee’s observance of a full fast on Ekādaśī. To the best of one’s ability, therefore, one should fast on Ekādaśī, the day of Lord Hari.
“O Yudhiṣṭhira, I urge you to hear with undivided intelligence the glories of Pauṣa-kṛṣṇa Ekādaśī, which falls on a Dvādaśī. As I explained previously, one should not differentiate among the many Ekādaśīs. O king, to benefit humanity at large I shall now describe to you the process of observing Pauṣa-kṛṣṇa Ekādaśī.
“Pauṣa-kṛṣṇa Ekādaśī is also known as Saphalā Ekādaśī. On this sacred day one should worship Lord Nārāyaṇa, for He is its ruling Deity. One should follow the previously described method of fasting. Just as among snakes Śeṣa-nāga is the best, among birds Garuḍa is the best, among sacrifices the Aśvamedha-yajña is the best, among rivers Mother Gaṅgā is the best, among gods Lord Viṣṇu is best, and among two-legged beings the brāhmaṇas are the best, so among all fasting days Ekādaśī is the best. O foremost of kings born in the Bharata dynasty, whoever strictly observes Ekādaśī becomes very dear to Me and indeed worshipable by Me in every way. Now listen as I describe the process for observing Saphalā Ekādaśī.
“On Saphalā Ekādaśī My devotee should worship Me by offering Me fresh fruits according to time, place and circumstance, and by meditating on Me as the all-auspicious Supreme Personality. He should offer Me jāmbīra fruit, pomegranate, betal, coconut, guava, varieties of nuts, cloves, mangoes, and different kinds of aromatic spices. He should also offer Me incense and bright ghee lamps, for such an offering of lamps on Saphalā Ekādaśī is especially glorious. The devotee should try to stay awake all night.
“Now please hear with undivided attention as I tell you how much merit one gets if he fasts and remains awake throughout the entire night. O best of kings, there is no sacrifice or pilgrimage that yields merit equal to or better than the merit one gains by fasting on Saphalā Ekādaśī. Such fasting – particularly if one can remain awake and alert all night long – bestows the same merit upon the faithful devotee as the performance of austerity for five thousand years. O lion among kings, please hear the glorious history of this Ekādaśī.
“Once there was a city called Campāvatī, which was ruled by the saintly King Māhiṣmata. He had four sons, the eldest of whom, Lumpaka, always engaged in very sinful activities – illicit sex with the wives of others, gambling, and continual association with known prostitutes. His evil deeds gradually reduced the wealth of his father, King Māhiṣmata. Lumpaka also became very critical of the demigods and brāhmaṇas, and every day he would blaspheme Vaiṣṇavas. At last King Māhiṣmata, seeing the condition of his son, exiled him to the forest. Out of fear of the king, even compassionate relatives did not come to Lumpaka’s defense, so angry was the king and so sinful was Lumpaka.
“Bewildered in his exile, Lumpaka thought to himself, „My father has sent me away, and even my kinsmen do not raise any objection. What should I do now?‟ He schemed sinfully and thought, „I shall sneak back to the city under cover of darkness and plunder its wealth. During the day I shall stay in the forest, and at night I‟ll return to the city.‟ So thinking, Lumpaka entered the dark forest. He killed many animals by day, and by night he stole valuable items from the city. The city-dwellers apprehended him several times, but out of fear of the king they left him alone. They thought that it must have been the sins of his previous births that had made him lose his royal facilities and act so sinfully.
“Though a meat-eater, Lumpaka would also eat fruits every day. He resided under an old banyan tree that happened to be very dear to Lord Vāsudeva. Indeed, many worshipped it as the good of all the trees in the forest. In due course of time, while Lumpaka was doing so many sinful and condemnable activities, Saphalā Ekādaśī arrived. On the eve of Ekādaśī, Lumpaka had to pass the entire night without sleep because of the severe cold and his scanty bedclothes. The cold not only robbed him of all peace but almost killed him. By the time the sun rose, his teeth were chattering and he was almost comatose, and all during the morning of that day, Ekādaśī, he could not awaken from his stupor.
“When midday of Saphalā Ekādaśī arrived, the sinful Lumpaka finally came to and managed to rise up from his place under the banyan tree. But with every step he stumbled to the ground. Like a lame man, he walked slowly and hesitantly, suffering greatly from hunger and thirst in the midst of the jungle. So weak was Lumpaka that he could not kill even a single animal that day. Instead, he was reduced to collecting whatever fruits had fallen to the ground. By the time he returned to the banyan tree, the sun had set.
“Placing the fruits on the ground next to him, Lumpaka began to cry, „Oh, woe is me! What should I do? Dear father, what is to become of me? O Śrī Hari, please be merciful to me and accept these fruits!‟ Again he was forced to lie awake the whole night without sleep, but in the meantime the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Madhusūdana, had become pleased with Lumpaka’s offering of forest fruits, and He accepted them. Lumpaka had unwittingly observed a full Ekādaśī fast, and by the merit he reaped on that day he regained his kingdom with no further obstacles.
“Listen, O Yudhiṣṭhira, to what happened to the son of King Māhiṣmata when but a fragment of the merit spouted up within his heart.
“As the sun rose beautifully in the sky on the day following Ekādaśī, a handsome horse approached Lumpaka, and stood next to him. At the same time, a voice suddenly boomed out from the clear blue sky, „This horse is for you, Lumpaka! Mount it and swiftly ride out to greet you family! O son of King Māhiṣmata, by the mercy of Lord Vāsudeva and the strength of the merit you acquired by observing Saphalā Ekādaśī, your kingdom will be returned to you without any further hindrances. Such is the benefit you have gained by fasting on this auspicious day. Go now to your father and enjoy your rightful place in the dynasty.‟
“Upon hearing these celestial words, Lumpaka mounted the horse and rode back to the city of Campāvatī. By the merit he had accrued by fasting on Saphalā Ekādaśī, he had become a handsome prince once more and was able to absorb his mind in the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Hari. In other words, he had become My pure devotee.
“Lumpaka offered his father, King Māhiṣmata, his humble obeisances and once more accepted his princely responsibilities. Seeing his son decorated with Vaiṣṇava ornaments and tilaka, King Māhiṣmata gave him the kingdom, and Lumpaka ruled unopposed for many, many years. Whenever Ekādaśī came, he worshipped the Supreme Lord with great devotion. And by the mercy of Śrī Kṛṣṇa he obtained a beautiful wife and a fine son. In old age Lumpaka handed his kingdom over to his son – just as his own father, King Māhiṣmata, had handed it over to him – and then went into the forest to serve the Supreme Lord with controlled mind and senses. Purified of all material desire, he left his body and returned home, back to Godhead, attaining a place near the lotus feet of Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa.
“O Yudhiṣṭhira, one who approaches Me as Lumpaka did will become completely free of lamentation and anxiety. Indeed, anyone who properly observes this glorious Saphalā Ekādaśī – even if unknowingly, like Lumpaka – will become famous in this world. He will become perfectly liberated at death and return to Vaikuṇṭha. Of this there is no doubt. Moreover, one who simply hears the glories of Saphalā Ekādaśī obtains the same merit derived by one who performs a Rājasūrya-yajña, and at the very least he goes to heaven in his next birth.”
Thus ends the narration of the glories of Pauṣa-kṛṣṇa Ekādaśī, or Saphalā Ekādaśī, from the Bhaviṣya-uttara Purāṇa.
[Ekādaśī, The Day of Lord Hari, by Śrī Kṛṣṇa Balarām Swāmījī, KBS0106]