Fasting is the total or partial abstinence from food, water or both for a specific amount of time. It can be compared to the temporary closure of production in a factory for routine cleaning, servicing, and maintenance of equipment in order for the factory to continue operating at its best.
However, some people tend to believe that fasting is like starvation. This could not be further from the truth. Starvation is to remain without food for a long period of time when everything is withheld except air and water or the supply of food is below the minimum body requirements. Starvation results from the failure to digest and absorb essential food. One can compare starvation to the stopping of production in a factory due to a strike. Starvation is abstinence of food under compelled situations whereas fasting is by choice and a pleasant experience. Therefore, fasting is constructive while starvation is destructive. Over the years there have been numerous reasons for fasting and may be classified as: Physiological Fasting – This type of fast is for improving biological and metabolic disorders, raising the level of immunity or to invigorate the organs that play roles in metabolism. Pathological Fasting – This type of fast is used as a remedy for unaccountable causes of ailments such as pathogenic infections, bacteria or virus attacks, lack of immunity in the body, etc.Political Fasting – This type of fast is used to force the ruling authorities in favor of the demands of the people fasting. This is done either individually or collectively and usually declared a hunger strike.
Theological Fasting – This type of fast is usually for spiritual or religious purposes. In some religions, it becomes very ceremonial or ritualistic. Due to lack of knowledge of how to prepare for and how to end a fast some have been known to cause more harm than good.
Therapeutic Fasting – This type of fast is used to prevent or cure disease. It was in vogue approximately two to three millenniums ago in countries like Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, India, and China. Although it has been neglected by the modern men of medicine, as they believe in giving medicines and increasing food intake, it has not been totally eliminated from the globe. Spiritual, philosophical and naturopathic institutions, as well as individuals, are doing their best to use therapeutic fasting as a way of healing and maintaining good health.
Spiritual Fasting – This type of fast is advocated by all religions. It is usually conducted for a) penance such as self-imposed punishment in repentance of some wrongful deed, b) or for the elevation of consciousness through self-purification with the full faith and complete understanding. The second one implies purification of the body, mind, and soul and is usually undertaken with a rational purpose behind it. This is the kind of fasting that is advocated by IASS for achieving perfect Divine health, vibrant vitality, abiding happiness, profound knowledge and universal love.
Animal Fasting – Another way to understand fasting is to look to the animal world. If you watch you will see that a sick or wounded animal finds a secluded dark spot where he can keep warm, be protected from the elements and where he can have undisturbed peace. In this place, the animal rests and fasts. Although wounded, he lies there and usually recovers without drugs, bandages or surgery. Animals not only fast if ill or wounded, but also during hibernation in the winter and aestivation sleeping throughout the summer months in tropical climates. In addition, some animals fast during mating season and in many cases during the nursing period. Also, some animals fast immediately after birth and some wild ones fast when taken into captivity. A domestic animal may not eat for several days when moved into a new environment. Also, animals survive in forced fasts during droughts, snow and cold weather and can live long periods when food is not available.
It is important to note that fasting has been widely misunderstood in this modern high-caloric civilization. However, it is a known fact that the most popular criticisms of fasting are written by people who have never missed a meal in their lives.
Therefore we encourage you to search this site thoroughly so you can have a clear understanding of fasting. In addition, publications suggested for reading are:
Health Prevention & Disease Prevention Through Tap-Seva-Sumiran
Myths of Medical Science
Food is not the Source of Energy
The Hindi word for fasting is upvas, which means ‘sitting by the side’. This implies sitting near the Lord, the source of all vital power. Sitting nearer to God is possible only if the body is made suitable by having a predominance of the ether element. When in contact with the Lord, it is through ether only that the vital power can flow.
Therefore, fasting is the gradual omission of all gross elements from the diet. Fasting also removes waste products accumulated in the body, which helps to cure latent chronic diseases.
Long fasts, apart from being difficult and distressing, are not free from hazards. Hence, a more convenient and fruitful technique should be followed.
A change from one diet to the other should be gradual and according to your capacity and ambitions. This can easily be achieved by frequent short fasts. Accordingly, fasts are classified into five varieties with the object of gradually advancing from one to the next:
- No Breakfast
- One Day
- Three Day
- Breaking A Fast
It is said by Sri Akhileshji that if you do not stop eating breakfast, your breakfast will break you fast. If you are 18 years of age or over, omitting breakfast is the first fast recommended and is to be continued the rest of your life.
Since the change from wrong foods to disease-healing ones has to be on a gradual, progressive and systematic basis it is suggested that you start omitting your breakfast gradually. The best way to do this is by slowly changing your breakfast food to fresh fruits, vegetable juices or sprouted grains only, while at the same time changing the time you eat each week by either a half or one hour later until your first intake of food is around 12 noon.
Once this is accomplished you have begun the lifetime No Breakfast Fast and are on the road to attaining what we call perfect Divine health.
Preparation for fasting is very important and it is emphasized that a change from the lower material to the higher subtler diet should never be sudden, but should come about gradually. Hence, a higher gradation of the diet should be taken only after living for a considerable period of time on the lower scale diet. This enables the body to adjust itself to the new diet or fast and also to prevent the appearance of serious symptoms due to the stirring up of the impurities in the blood for elimination.
A gradual ascent will push lesser impurities into the blood at a time and allow ample time for better purification without producing any serious or alarming symptoms.
First they lived on vegetables, fruits and roots and meditated on Brahm (the Absolute), who is a combination of vitality, bliss and illumination. Further they underwent penance for the manifestation of the form of God, giving up roots and fruits and took water only.
Based on the above text it is clear that one must take care in preparing and moving from one type of fast or diet to another. It is best if you take guidance from one who is experienced in fasting. Then the chance of any complications will disappear.