Renowned Greek philosopher Socrates fasted as a means to achieve mental clarity. Pythagoras not only fasted himself but encouraged his students to fast too. Fasting is done in some form or the other even today in almost every culture in the world.
Prayag Kshetra and the glorious Prayag Mahatmya
Prayag Mahatmya find mention in Narada Puran. Counted as one of the major puranas among 18, Narad Puran talks about the vedas. It gives out the names of major rivers in India and pilgrimage places along with an explanation of each of them. It talks about important Gods and deities and also mentions about planets and astronomy. It mentions Prayag as the greatest of all pilgrimages. Taking a dip in the confluence of three rivers namely, Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati during the month of Magh is unmatched and considered superior to taking a bath in Ganga river at Kashi.
The famous Buddhist Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang mentions Prayaga as a country and a city where there are hundreds of temples and two Buddhist institutions where Hindus fast near the junction of the rivers and then bathe in it. The followers of this fasting ritual are called Kalpavasis. They come at Prayagraj to stay in community tents sleeping on straws instead of bed. They eat plain vegetarian food once a day and spend the rest of the time in prayers. It is believed that after taking bath with hot water for eleven months in a year, when the cold water hits the fasting body in the morning, the body gets rids of large number of toxins. It also forces the body to pull out extra reserves of energy to create heat within the body. This can be achieved by melting down the toxins and junk proteins lingering in the body for several months. Various studies surrounding the Nordic Ice Bath ritual or the Swedish Cold bath also point in the same direction. It relieves your body of stress, improves the immune system and improves blood circulation. It is also said to provide you with enough burst of energy to carry you around for the day without feeling too cold. Swedish people mainly indulge in couple or group bathing too.
The major difference between the Kalpavasis and Swedish people is that they do not undertake fasting rituals.
If you have been eating your whole life, imagine how difficult it would be to fast. So what is the best way to motivate yourself to restrict eating and following one meal a day – family time. The way of people from Israel.
The three meal routine during Shabbat
Jews observe one rest day per week which is Saturday. Beginning Friday after sunset they take just three meals beginning with Friday evening followed by lunch on Saturday with a light meal as third. Shabbat routine involves staying away from labour intensive activities and focusing on prayers and spending time with family.
If you are fasting most of the time your mind might get distracted by food. You will need the strength to pull yourself through. That is provided by the family members and their support for each other. Other days of the week you might have separate meals but on Saturday the meal is family time and this is considered to be the biggest stress buster.
The Saturday lunch is somewhat heavy but it is also followed by a light meal. This is done with an intention that after having a prolonged fast you should never break your fast with the heaviest meal but divide the meal into two parts to gradually ease the body into eating regime.
Fasting for 18 hours is just enough for the body to get all benefits but in little bits like autophagy, growth hormones, BDNF molecules and stem cells. You are also assured of significant fat burning during this fasting period.
Family support is considered the best way to sail through a fasting ritual but what if you want to get answers to some really complex questions concerning humanity.
Abstinence from everything – the journey of a living God
When Lord Gautam Buddha was born, the great astrologers of that time predicted that he will either be a great king or a religious leader. Understandably worried by the prediction his father tired to shield him from the miseries of the outside world by keeping him safe, secure and comfortable within the palace with all luxuries at his disposal. But when Gautama left the palace to see the outside world for the first time, it shocked him. He left his palace in the dead of the night and started wandering around like an ascetic begging on the streets for food and alms. His initial wandering days were spend in thick jungles where he practised the various forms for meditation. He took his ascetic life to the extreme by eating very little food and spending long time in meditation.
It is so difficult to imagine that a prince with a wife and son living in total luxury one day comes to giving up all comforts of life and begging on the streets. It is also hard to even believe that he moved from eating luxury soul food to eating very little food once a day. Not that he journey was easy. There came a brief time when he started accepting food and gave up his life of asceticism. This led to his five companions leaving him. But he rebound with rigor and went on to attain enlightenment.
Gautam Buddha practised what is called extreme prolonged fasting. He proved that human body is capable of storing reserves for about 40 days. Modern research has revealed how fasting more than 48 hours leads to an exponential rise in production of growth hormone and BDNF molecule. BDNF repairs the neurons and nervous system which explains the spike in intelligence and clarity which the Lord had while attending to peoples issues.
HE was led into the wilderness to fast for 40 days and 40 nights by the holy spirit
While many people do not know about “Lent” in the New Testament, most also believe that Lord Jesus is shown mostly dining. Did Jesus fast any time in his lifetime? Yes, during the time he went food, he was tempted by the devil. Fasting in the Bible is shown as a way to get closer to God. It increases your confidence and faith in God.
The one common point about fasting in all cultures is that it distinguishes between fasting for a day and then days together. It is also important how you break a fast. If you have fasted for more than a day, all the organs involved in the digestive system have rested and shrunk, especially the stomach. Always break the fast with a glass of water or juice. Then move onto some light and easily digestible food like curd or cooked vegetables. Remember to chew the food thoroughly. If you have fasted for days then been just consume juice for one whole day.
Our diet has too much of carbs in it. That has made us dependent on carbs for energy. Once the carbs is digested our body cells demand energy which is why we feel hungry. If you are feeling any kind of discomfort, you can break your fast. Prayers and family time is the best way to achieve your goal of fasting.