Is Fasting Good for You? (Upavaas)

Is Fasting Good for You? (Upavaas)

No. It is not good for me. I have never fasted in my life.

The question was from one of my distant relative Ajji (old lady). Whenever we meet during any family function we talk about many subjects. She is a retired school teacher. She asked further: “But according to our tradition we have to fast during Ekadasi. Upavaas (fasting) is the best spiritual practice to reach god, according to Hinduism”

“Yes Ajji, if you continue fasting, probably you will reach God faster….” I replied.

“Remember, all our Gurus and priests recommend Upavaas.”

“If fasting is really good then why not they fast their entire lives?”

“Lord Shiva said we have to fast during Siva Ratri. And Lord Vishnu said we have to fast during Vaikunta Ekadasi”

“Did they send you SMS Ajji? How can these Gods command you not to eat and drink? How can they be happy when you are starving? Isn’t that a baseless superstition? “I asked. The same Siva said “the first duty is to care for the body for practicing Dharma” (Sharira Madhyam Khalu Dharma Sadhanam).

“You have never fasted, Uday?”

“Oh, I do fast every day. Most probably, it would be between 10PM and 4AM, while I am asleep. But sometimes when I get up in between and if I feel hungry I would eat biscuits or banana”

“But you should try fasting Uday, to understand its benefits…”

“Of course yes, I want to try fasting between meals.”

“Fasting is good for your health…”

“Thank you for the advise and your concern about my health Ajji. But each body has different style of operation. I cannot tolerate hunger. My stomach would rumble.”

“There are hundreds of research studies that show Upavaas (fasting) is a healthy practice…”

“I can show equal or more number of studies that prove fasting is unhealthy,” I replied.

“I have been fasting every month during Ekadasi, Amaavasi, Sashti etc. so I could get blessings for me and my entire family…”

“That’s very nice of you Ajji. I appreciate and respect your good intention behind fasting. I know millions of people fast on certain days based on their belief and to appease certain deities.”

“But our scriptures say you must perform fasting…”

“Which scripture?” I asked.

“I don’t understand why you are being so adamant on this. Why are you opposing fasting?”

“Ajji, I am not adamant and I am not opposing. You asked me a question; I answered it… there are millions of people who are starving. I would appreciate if you skip one time food and provide it to people who really starve. My prayer is, ‘oh God, let me not starve.’ You would want to starve to please god. That’s the difference. As far as I am concerned, any fasting is adharmic and violent, so I don’t follow it.”

“Why? That’s my question. Mahatma Gandhi undertook 17 fasts during India’s freedom movement. Fasting was a weapon used by Gandhiji as part of his philosophy of Ahimsa or Non Violence”

“Gandhiji is our nation’s father. That doesn’t mean I need to follow everything he did. He was fasting as a form of protest. I would call his action as hunger strike. He was expressing his anger to British through those hunger strikes,” I continued: “It is equivalent to taking out one’s frustration over one incident on someone or something else. If you are angry with British, you should show it to them, not to the food you eat. According to our tradition…

(Excerpts from my book: MANTRAS and RITUALS: THE LOGIC OF HINDU SCIENCE. For further reading: https://www.amazon.in/dp/B093Z2M52M ) You may visit Amazon site of your respective country and search “B093Z2M52M”

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By
Udaylal Pai
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