Sunday, October 26, 2008

Fasting for Spiritual Elevation

Fasting for Spiritual Elevation

Those who fast liberate much extra energy from the body since little of their energy is being used for digestion during this time. This energy should be properly channeled and not wasted. Since the mind is extremely clear, this is the best time for meditation: the extra energy can be used to elevate the mind to higher states of consciousness. In India the word for fasting is upav├ís which means “remaining near the Supreme Consciousness”; because for thousands of years yogis have practised fasting not just for the physical health benefits, but to elevate their minds to higher states of awareness.

The Greek philosophers – Socrates, Plato, and Pythagoras – fasted before writing their works of philosophy or taking special examinations, because they knew that fasting stimulates mental power. The high priests of ancient Egypt also fasted for long periods of time. When the Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras went to Egypt to study occult spiritual science, he had to first undergo a fast of 40 days because the Egyptian masters explained, “Forty days is necessary in order that you may grasp what we will teach you.”

In the Bible we read again and again about fasting, for the early Jews and Christians used to fast not only to heal themselves but also to attain spiritual powers and a greater “closeness with God”. Moses fasted for 40 days and 40 nights before he went up to Mount Sinai to receive the 10 commandments; Jesus also fasted for 40 days, during which time he overcame all temptations and prepared himself for the great work and suffering he was to endure. In the Bible it is written: “When you fast, do not have a sad face but be clean and cheerful (Matthew 6:16-17)”… “Be honest, be sincere, fast for honest and truthful purposes (Matthew 6:18)”… “Then (after the fast) shall thy light shine forth as the morning, and thy health shall spring forth speedily (Isaiah 58:8)”.

The Buddha, too, often fasted to detach his mind from the physical world and attain higher consciousness, and after his longest fast, for 40 days, he attained enlightenment.

Now we have seen that in the past, the great saints and sages attained wisdom and mental powers by long fasting. They well know that fasting – when pure blood bathes the brain and gives it tremendous energy and strength – is the best time to devote oneself to higher mental and spiritual effort to obtain rapid progress.

Adapted from: “Food for Thought” by Acarya Avadhutika Anandamitra, Ananda Marga Publications, Calcutta , India , 1994 (Third Printing).

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