The glories of Pausha-krishna Ekadasi, or Saphala Ekadasi are found in the Bhavishya-uttara Purana in a conversation between Maharaja Yudhishthira and Lord Krishna.
Yudhishthira Maharaja said to Lord Krishna, “Dear Lord, what is the name of the Ekadasi that occurs in the dark fortnight of the month of Pausha (December-January)? How should it be observed, and which is the Deity to be worshipped on this sacred day? O Janardana! Please fully narrate this to me for my proper understanding.”
The Supreme Personality of Godhead Sri Krishna replied, “O best of kings, I shall fulfil your desire.
“I am not as pleased by sacrifice or charity as I am by observance of complete fasting on Ekadasi. One should therefore fast on Ekadasi to the best of one’s ability on this day of Lord Hari.
“O Yudhishthira, please hear with steady intelligence the glories of Pausha krishna Ekadasi. O king, I shall now describe to you the process of observing Pausha-krishna Ekadasi for the benefit of all humanity.
“Pausha-krishna Ekadasi is also known as Saphala Ekadasi. On this sacred day one should worship Lord Narayana, for He is its ruling Deity. One should do so by fasting.
“Just as among snakes Shesha-naga is the best, and among birds Garuda is the best, among sacrifices the Ashvamedha-yajna is the best, among rivers Mother Ganges is the best, among gods Lord Vishnu is best, and among two-legged beings the brahmanas are the best, so among all fasting days Ekadasi is by far the best.
“O scion of the Bharata dynasty, whoever strictly observes Ekadasi is very dear to Me. On Saphala Ekadasi My devotee should worship Me by offering Me fresh seasonal fruits while meditating on Me as the all-auspicious Supreme Personality of Godhead.
“The fruits he should offer Me are jambira, pomegranate and guava along with coconuts, betel nuts, betel leaves, varieties of nuts, and different kinds of aromatic spices like cloves, cardamom, saffron and camphor.
He should also offer Me incense and bright ghee lamps, for such an offering of lamps on Saphala Ekadasi is especially glorious. The devotee should also try to stay awake throughout the night of Ekadasi.
Now please hear with attentively as I relate the merit one accrues by fasting and staying awake singing and chanting the glories of Narayana the entire night of Saphala Ekadasi. O best of kings, there is no sacrifice or pilgrimage that yields merit comparable to this. It awards the merit a faithful devotee gains by performing austerity for five thousand earthly years.
“O lion among kings, please hear from Me the glorious history that made this Divine Ekadasi famous.
“Once there was a City called Champavati, which was ruled by the saintly King Mahishmata. He had four sons, the eldest of whom, Lumpaka, engaged in all kinds of sinful activities like illicit sex with the others’ wives, gambling, and associating with known prostitutes. His evil deeds gradually reduced the wealth of his father, King Mahishmata.
“Lumpaka criticized the devas (demigods) as well as the brahmanas. He would also deliberately blaspheme the Vaishnavas. At last King Maahishmata, seeing his son unrepentant and incorrigible became very angry and exiled him to the forest.
Even compassionate relatives could not come to Lumpaka’s rescue.
“Bewildered, the wicked Lumpaka thought to himself, ‘My father has sent me away, and no kinsmen raised even a finger in objection. What am I to do now?’ Scheming sinfully he thought, ‘I shall sneak into the city at dark and plunder its wealth and during the day I shall stay in the forest.’
“So thinking, the sinful Lumpaka entered the darkness of the forest. He killed many animals by day, and stole valuables from the city at night. Citizens apprehended him several times, but released him for fear of the king. They surmised that the accumulated sins of Lumpaka’s previous births must have impelled him to act in a way as to lose all royal comforts and be reduced to a common thief.
“Though a meat-eater, Lumpaka would also eat fruits. He lived under an old banyan tree that, unknown to him, happened to be very dear to Lord Vasudeva. Indeed, many worshipped it as the demigod of all the trees in the forest.
“In due course, while Lumpaka continued his degraded activities, Saphala Ekadasi arrived. On the eve of the Ekadasi (Dasami) Lumpaka had to pass the entire night without sleep because of severe cold that he felt due to his scanty clothing. The cold nearly took his life. By the time the sun rose he lay with his teeth chattering and almost comatose. In fact all that Ekadasi morning, he remained in a stupor unable to wake up. At midday of Saphala Ekadasi, Lumpaka recovered and managed to rise up from his place under that banyan tree. Trying to walk he stumbled and fell to the ground at every step. He limped on, suffering thirst and hunger in the midst of the jungle.
“So weak was Lumpaka that he couldn’t muster enough strength to kill any animal that day. Instead, he gathered whatever fruits that had fallen to the ground. By the time he returned to his banyan tree home, the sun had set. Placing the fruits on the ground next to him (at the base of the sacred banyan tree), Lumpaka began to cry out, ‘O, woe is me! Dear father, what will become of me? O Sri Hari, please be merciful. Please accept these fruits as an offering from me!’
“Once more he lay awake the whole night. However, the merciful Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Madhusudana, was pleased with Lumpaka’s humble offering of forest fruits, and accepted them. Lumpaka had unwittingly observed the full Ekadasi fast.
“Hear, O Yudhisthira, of what happened when just a fragment of merit sprouted within Lumpaka’s heart.
“As the Sun beautifully rose in the sky on the day following Ekadasi, a handsome horse approached Lumpaka as if seeking him out, and stood by him. At that time, a voice suddenly boomed from the clear sky, ‘This horse is meant for you, Lumpaka! Mount it and ride swiftly out of this forest to greet your family! O son of King Mahishmata, by the mercy of the Supreme lord Vasudeva and the merit you acquired by accidentally observing Saphala Ekadasi, you will regain your kingdom. Such is the benefit of fasting on this most auspicious of days. Go now, to you father and enjoy your rightful place in the dynasty.’
“Upon hearing the celestial voice resounding from the heavens, Lumpaka mounted the horse and rode back to the city of Champavati. By the merit of fasting on Saphala Ekadasi, he had become a handsome prince once more. But, most of all, he was freed off sinful propensities and able to absorb his mind on the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Hari. In other words, he had become a pure devotee.
“Lumpaka offered his father, King Mahishmata, his humble obeisances and assumed his princely responsibilities. Seeing his son decorated with Vaishnava qualities and wearing a tilak (udhvara pundra), King Mahishmata developed good confidence in his son and eventually gave him his kingdom to rule. Lumpaka then ruled unopposed for many, many years.
“Whenever the Ekadasi came, he worshipped the Supreme Lord Narayana with great devotion. He was blessed by Sri Krishna with a beautiful wife and a fine son. In old age Lumpaka handed his kingdom over to his son – just as his own father, King Maahishmata, had done and went away to the forest to dedicate himself to the service of the Supreme Lord with restrained mind and senses.”
Lord Krishna continued, “Purified of all material desires, he finally left his withered body and returned to my eternal abode finding a place at My lotus feet.
“O Yudhisthira, one who approaches Me as Lumpaka did will become completely free of lamentation and anxiety. Indeed, anyone who properly observes this glorious Saphala Ekadasi – even unknowingly, like Lumpaka – will become famous in the world. He will be liberated at death and return to the spiritual abode of Vaikuntha. Of this there is no doubt.”
Lord Krishna concluded, “One who merely hears these glories of Saphala Ekadasi will obtain the merit of performing a Rajasuya-yajna, and at the very least will attain to the heavenly planets in his next birth!”