dvadasyam yad aparane
yat krtva sadhu me bhuyad
adharmo va na mam sprset
ahur ab-bhaksanam vipra
hy asitam nasitam ca tat
Translation by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada:
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.
Purport by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada:
When Maharaja Ambarisa, 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 Vaisnava, however, is the most intelligent personality. Therefore Maharaja Ambarisa 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 Ambarisa decided to act in this way.