Benefits of Fasting
By Sri Swami Sivananda
Nowadays, many educated people do not observe fasting. This is due to the impact of the dark, vicious, materialistic forces. When the intellect develops a little, people begin to enter into arguments and unnecessary discussions. They who have not developed the heart1 but who have developed their intellect begin to doubt and question at every step. They are led astray. They want a "why" and a "how" for everything. They want "scientific" explanations for all phenomena.
God is beyond proofs and presumptions. One has to approach religion and the scriptures with great faith, reverence and purity of heart2. Then only are the secrets of religion revealed unto him like the apple in the palm of one's hand.
Fasting controls passion. It checks the emotions. It controls the senses also. It is a great penance. It purifies the mind and the heart. It destroys a multitude of sins. Fasting controls the tongue in particular which is the deadliest enemy of man. Fasting overhauls the respiratory, circulatory, digestive and urinary systems. It destroys all the impurities of the body and all sorts of poisons. It eliminates uric acid deposits. Just as impure gold is rendered pure by melting it in the crucible again and again, so also this impure mind is rendered purer by repeated fasting. The chief object of fasting is to render the system calm so that one is able to practice meditation rigorously during that period.
Fasting is one of the ten canons of Yoga. However, avoid excessive fasting. It will produce weakness3. Use your common sense. If you cannot fast for the full twenty-four hours, at least fast for 10-12 hours and then take some milk and fruit. Gradually increase your fast to 15 hours and then up to 24 hours. Fasting makes a man strong, both spiritually and mentally.
The Wisdom of Fasting
Another thing, every week you must fast one day on orange juice to rest the organs. You won’t die—you will LIVE! Each month fast two or three days consecutively, living only on orange juice. There is so much bondage to matter—of fear to miss a meal. It is so evident we are not living by the Spirit of God. Jesus Christ talks about living by the Spirit of God4. Resurrect yourself from this bad mental habit of overeating and palate slavery. When you fast on orange juice it scrubs every cell. At least every month you should give a thorough housecleaning to your body by fasting. Do not let poison accumulate in your system. When you are suddenly sick you begin to pray to God. Don’t let yourself get sick. The greatest way of health and the simplest is, every week fast one day on orange juice and two or three days consecutively a month.
Resurrect your soul from the hypnosis of bad habits in eating. You must do lots of resurrecting in order to get to God. Not only right eating but moderation in all things and sunlight and exercise are just as important.
1 "The heart's natural love is the principle requisite to attain a holy life." Swami Sri Yukteswar, The Holy Science, 7th Edition (Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1974), p. 34.
2 "Men call me Christ, and God has recognized the name; but Christ is not a man. The Christ is universal love, and Love is king. This Jesus is but man who has been fitted by temptations overcome, by trials multiform, to be the temple through which Christ can manifest to men. Then hear, you men of Israel, hear! Look not upon the flesh; it is not king. Look to the Christ within, who shall be formed in every one of you, as he is formed in me. When you have purified your hearts by faith, the king will enter in, and you will see his face. And then the people asked, What must we do that we may make our bodies fit abiding places for the king? And Jesus said, Whatever tends to purity in thought, and word, and deed will cleanse the temple of the flesh. There are no rules that can apply to all, for men are specialists in sin; each has his own besetting sin, And each must study for himself how he can best transmute his tendency to evil things to that of righteousness and love." Levi Dowling, The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ, (Marina Del Rey, CA: DeVorss & Co., 1972) p. 110 (Chapter 68, verses 11-17).
3 "Why should these men who follow me resort to fasting, or to anything that would impair their strength? They need it all to serve the race. The time will come when God will let you have your way, and you will do to me what Herod did to John; And in the awfulness of that sad hour these men will fast." Ibid., p.172 (Chapter 119, verses 26-28).
4 Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward hungry. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. Matthew 4:1-4
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