HH Mahant Swami Maharaj gave an inspiring discourse in Gujarati
on the purpose and benefits of fasting on 6 June 2018 in Limbdi
Generally, people fast for health reasons. And there are many benefits of fasting. One, fasting for 24 hours cleans one’s body from the inside. Many also fast by drinking only water, which is also a good thing. For us, the benefits are immense because Bhagwan becomes pleased upon us. One of the names of Shriji Maharaj is tapaha priyay namaha (we bow to him because he loves austerity). He liked to perform austerities a lot. There is a saying, “One should go to a pilgrim place for the sake of doing austerities, and not for eating and drinking.”
Another benefit of fasting is that there are certain (harmful) substances in our blood that are eliminated by fasting. Some animals fast for several days prior to mating. The reason being that a certain amount of wholesome energy is created within themselves, which is beneficial to their body.
By fasting one’s body may become physically weak, but there are other good energies that are created. One, the body becomes clean, which is a very big thing. Some fast for one day, two days or five days, whereas some fast by drinking liquids. In short, such fasts are very beneficial. One is never at a loss through fasting.
Sometimes, fasting increases acidity (in one’s stomach), but, with practice, things turn out to be beneficial for us. Even if the acidity increases it allows the body to flush out toxins. In other words, the body flushes out waste.
By fasting, our cells are rejuvenated. One may experience physical fatigue, but ultimately, fasting is definitely beneficial. A renowned naturopathy doctor did a lot of research on this subject. He said that [through fasting] old cells are flushed out and replaced by new ones. In Morogoro [Tanzania], after a person had fasted for ten continous days, he appeared healthy like a red tomato. So, fasting is very good for health. Fasting therapy is a useful health therapy. After doing that a person may look the same, but there is a drastic change in the internal parts of his body. For us the fruit of fasting is Shriji Maharaj’s rajipo.
In our Sampradaya, many observe ektana (eating only once a day), dharna-parna (alternate fasts) on other endeavours, but they must be observed properly, to provide more benefits. To get more benefits one must abide by the guidelines. For us, fasting is important for self-restraint. To reign over lust it is necessary to fast. There are also other benefits of fasting. Austerity should be performed with self-restraint (sanyam) and niyams. However, by over-indulging in food one’s attention becomes outwardly and one gains no benefits. Yogi Bapa talked about the benefits of fasting. He said that one does not suffer from flatulence and colds.
Yogi Bapa used to say that to eat one less morsel amounts to subtle austerity (sukshma tapa). One needs to cure one’s habit of gluttony. All day long one should have an attitude of austerity. It is not that one should not eat, but one must observe subtle austerity. One’s body weight will not increase by eating only once in a day (paka ektana). By observing paka ektana for one month there a lot of benefits to the body. Paka ektana is necessary for health and spiritual stability. It increases soul strength. One is also able to achieve self-control over one’s mind. We find people over-indulging in eating everywhere. There’s no self-restraint. Those who are health conscious observe self-restraint because they are concerned about the benefits for their body only. Even for those who do not believe in religion it is necessary for them to observe fasts.
To observe fasts one has to cultivate the will to do them. One has to decide resolutely in one’s mind that one wants to observe fasts. Otherwise, one will give up midway. Some who start observing the month-long austerity of khatras give it up in the first week. [because they lack self-restraint]. In all types of austerities one gains spiritual strength. If one observes any austerities with a firm resolve then one progresses.
Yogi Bapa used to say that no one dies due to observing a fast. In fact, many die due to over-eating. By eating less, one becomes energetic and strong. Eating less means not experiencing one’s stomach to be heavy or full. In so doing, one’s inner strength increases.
There are two benefits behind fasting: one is spiritual – it helps one to develop self-restraint (sanyam) and other virtues; and the second is the increase in inner strength. By fasting one’s thoughts are transformed. For this, one must have a resolute mind. By having a strong mind all tasks can be done.
For us, the main purpose of observing fasts should be to please Bhagwan and his Sadhu. Other people fast and we, too, observe fasts, but our purpose is to please Bhagwan. Those who fast with the purpose to please Bhagwan and his Sadhu, then their fasts are considered to be (spiritually) more fruitful.
All devotees should fast on ekadashis and observe austerities in the holy month of Shravan or the whole of Chaturmas according to their health and capacities.