Lecture on Srimad Bhagavatam, Canto 9, Chapter 4, Texts 31-40 given by Indradyumna Swami.
SB 9.4.31-32: Following the regulative principles of mahabhisheka, Maharaja Ambarisha performed the bathing ceremony for the Deity of Lord Krishna with all paraphernalia, and then he dressed the Deity with fine clothing, ornaments, fragrant flower garlands and other paraphernalia for worship of the Lord. With attention and devotion, he worshiped Krishna and all the greatly fortunate brahmanas who were free from material desires.
SB 9.4.33-35: Thereafter, Maharaja Ambarisha satisfied all the guests who arrived at his house, especially the brahmanas. He gave in charity sixty crores of cows whose horns were covered with gold plate and whose hooves were covered with silver plate. All the cows were well decorated with garments and had full milk bags. They were mild-natured, young and beautiful and were accompanied by their calves. After giving these cows, the King first sumptuously fed all the brahmanas, and when they were fully satisfied, he was about to observe the end of Ekadasi, with their permission, by breaking the fast. Exactly at that time, however, Durvasa Muni, the great and powerful mystic, appeared on the scene as an uninvited guest.
SB 9.4.36: After standing up to receive Durvasa Muni, King Ambarisha offered him a seat and paraphernalia of worship. Then, sitting at his feet, the King requested the great sage to eat.
SB 9.4.37: Durvasa Muni gladly accepted the request of Maharaja Ambarisha, but to perform the regulative ritualistic ceremonies he went to the River Yamuna. There he dipped into the water of the auspicious Yamuna and meditated upon the impersonal Brahman.
SB 9.4.38: In the meantime, only a muhurta of the Dvadasi day was left on which to break the fast. Consequently, it was imperative that the fast be broken immediately. In this dangerous situation, the King consulted learned brahmanas.
SB 9.4.39-40: The King said: “To transgress the laws of respectful behavior toward the brahmanas is certainly a great offense. On the other hand, if one does not observe the breaking of the fast within the time of Dvadasi, there is a flaw in one’s observance of the vow. Therefore, O brahmanas, if you think that it will be auspicious and not irreligious, I shall break the fast by drinking water.” In this way, after consulting with the brahmanas, the King reached this decision, for according to brahminical opinion, drinking water may be accepted as eating and also as not eating.
When Maharaja Ambarisha, in his dilemma, consulted the brahmanas about whether he should break the fast or wait for Durvasa Muni, apparently they could not give a definite answer about what to do. A Vaishnava, however, is the most intelligent personality. Therefore Maharaja Ambarisha himself decided, in the presence of the brahmanas, that he would drink a little water, for this would confirm that the fast was broken but would not transgress the laws for receiving a brahmana. In the Vedas it is said, apo ‘snati tan naivasitam naivanasitam. This Vedic injunction declares that the drinking of water may be accepted as eating or as not eating. Sometimes in our practical experience we see that some political leader adhering to satyagraha will not eat but will drink water. Considering that drinking water would not be eating, Maharaja Ambarisha decided to act in this way.