My son asked me the other day, “Mom, why do you fast every week?”
“That is out of my love for Krishna,” I said. I was referring to beloved Divine Lord Krishna.
“Then, why do you fast for Krishna’s birthday too?”
This conversation had me thinking about the confusion around this topic.
I fast when I feel love for the divine. I fast when I am in celebration too!
The Paradox of Feasting and Fasting
Fasting and feasting are important part of lifestyle for practicing Hindus. If you come from a lineage of Hindus, you might follow the traditions established by the elders in your family. However, as children or friends have questions or in your own contemplation when you encounter a question, you begin to search for answers.
Sattvic lifestyle is more than eating the right kind of food. The practices of sattvic lifestyle involves periodic fasting! The cycle of feasting and fasting is written into the Hindu calendar and adopted into daily practices. The underlying thought current supporting this practice is powerful understanding and determination to uphold sustainability at all times. It also looks like commonsense once we understand the science behind it.
Upavasa, Vrata, and Dieting
When we have everything available, why do we want to fast?
Here is a short explanation to the benefits of fasting from the perspective of Ayurvedha—
In Sanskrit, fasting is called as Upasava (pronunciation: OOpah-Vah-Sah). In practice, Upavasa is voluntary abstinence from eating regular food. It arises from gratitude or seeking closeness with divine. Because this is a personal desire, there are several degrees or types of Upavasa one can choose to practice. There are no regulations. It is subjective. One can reduce the amount of food, refrain from eating food at certain times, not eat rice or cooked food, partake only fruits, or live on a diet of vegetables and juices.
Upavasa is usually for a brief, chosen, or prescribed time. Upavasa is the channeling the senses inward to seek remedies for the blocks and connect with the divine. It is a powerful completion technique. There is a sense of accomplishment at the end of upavasa. Seeking closeness and spiritual solution is the highest offering humans can offer.
Vrata (pronunciation: Vraw-tha) is a Sanskrit term that encompasses several practices. Devotional and step-wise worship, abstinence, ritual worship, fasting and feasting are included in the practice of Vrata. These observances are named after the divine incarnation we seek power from. For example, the observances on full moon nights for Sri Narayana in the form of Sri Sathyanarayana is known as Sri Sathyanaryana Swami Vrata. Similarly, when the focus is Divine Mother, Mahalakshmi for wealth completion, it is called as Soubhagyalakshmi Vrata. Successful completion of a Vrata brings a sense of completeness and peace to the mind.
As you can see dieting is far different from the practice of both Upavasa or Vrata. Diet is a regulation of eating practices for a limited time with the goal for feeling the weight loss. Diet has a set of rules and promises some kinds of results. Although Upavasa or Vrata can lead to weight loss, the purpose of the practice is in deeper than that.
Challenge for you!
You can now choose your style of Upavasa a design it to suit your lifestyle. There are some common, unsaid rules during the observance of Upavasa. During the period of Upavasa, one eats or drinks only sattvic foods. For best results, eat sattvic vegan or vegetarian food.
Sattvic lifestyle is a mindful choice you make to live in higher consciousness. This blog post has information about the higher dimensions of sattvic lifestyle and choice.
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Coming up next: The science of fasting