Reading the last few blog posts on fasting and feasting, you might have had a question. Since Upavasa does not mean abstaining from food, what is the easiest way to undertake an Upavasa? This blog post provides some models of Upavasa that you can undertake.
Goal of Upavasa
Upavasa, from a sattvic perspective, can mean different things at many different levels. Many studies show that abstaining from food has been shown to have positive impact on mind and body. In everyday life, we are constantly feeding on the input from our senses. We also eating food, which we think, gives us energy.
Upavasa is abstinence. It is abstinence from the addiction to our sensory feedback. It is the glory of feeling liberated from the patterns of food, taste and eating. With the mundane removed from our life, we can now focus on the higher purpose in life.
According to all tenants of Sanatana Hindu Dharma, human life is the highest gift possible for any being. It is through human life we can connect with the divine and achieve moksha, enlightenment. Moksha is the knowledge that liberates us from illusions. The illusion that plagues all beings is the assumption that they possess something when they do not.
Timing of Upavasa
All upavasa is tied to the Hindu calendar. On a side note, the Hindu calendar is much different from the Julian or western calendar we use in our business life. One can undertake upavasa once a month. For example, devout undertake upavasa for monthly shivaratri or Masik Shivaratri. The most popular Ekadashi upavasa or Pradosham upavasa happens twice a month.
Here are some videos explaining the significance of Ekadashi Upavasa:
This video explains the spiritual significance of upavasa from Vishnava tradition.
Here is a video explaining the significance of Pradosham. This is from Shaivaite traditions:
Another traditional upavasa is observed the during fortnightly full moon and new moon. Every day of the week is auspicious for any one of the deities. Devout undertake upavasa on a weekly basis for the deities. For example, Monday is dedicated to Somavara vrata (soma is another name for Shiva). Tuesday can be dedicated to Ganesa, Devi, or Muruga, depending on your Ishta devata or your favorite deity. Thursday is dedicated to Guru and so on. Devout observe upavasa for Navaratri and other major festivals. Thus, everyday is filled with opportunities to undertake upavasa.
Models of Upavasa
It is important for upavasa model to fit your needs and goals. It can mean eating just to sustain the day. It can mean eating only fruits. Or it could mean taking only fluids.
Upavasa may be done for 12 hours to 16 hours. One can also fast by taking just one simple meal per day. Upavasa could also mean taking one or two fruits during the other meal times. Nirahara, living without food, should be done following an effective system. See below.
Upavasa, according to Hinduism, is a flexible activity. Although it is done according to the necessities and per body requirement, the purpose of all upavasa is to bring closeness with the divine.
What to eat
During upavasa please do not eat any snacks or fast food. If you are taking only liquids during upavasa, do not consume any bottled juices. These are filled with sugar. Make simple recipes at home and eat fresh everyday.
Here are some recipes to make—
Going beyond food
Nirahara samyama takes you beyond food and hunger! It is the best way to combine detox, energize yourself, and grow spiritually. Nirahara prepares you live without food and helps you live and moves beyond food.
Several studies show that fasting or upavasa aids everyone to live with optimum human performance, in high mental and physical health improvement, maximum muscle retention, body fat loss etc. This lists only the physical benefits. It is also very helpful in calming the mind, learning self-control besides feeling the light and energetic. All this happens because of the immense flow of positive energy through the body.
Upavasa is the most intimate experience with divine. It involves withdrawal of senses to focus on aligning with higher purpose in life.