In modern times, our life revolves around food. Every cookbook has recipes for appetizers, for main course, side dish and so on. In the last few centuries, globally, people have imbibed the western idea of having ‘three square meals daily.’ The meals referenced here are breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This is considered as the touchstone for prosperity in any society today. New findings of science show that we usually eat more than we need.
Sattvic food style
When we look deeply at the practices passed on by our ancestors, we notice that food was only a part of the lifestyle.
Availability of food was not a strong enough reason for eating.
Studying the practices, one notices that the preoccupations of our ancestors were somewhat different from their western counterparts of their time.
Our elders were more aligned to cosmic happenings. They gave importance to community events. And they paid tremendous attention to what they put in their mouth and how they put it. They were picky about eating food cooked by others. They were concerned about their energy and vibrations. They researched to find out the action of food items on their chakras and their vibrations. They were well versed in toxic overload and regulating their eating practices. These form the basis of sattvic food style.
In sattvic lifestyle, there is no need to eat three times a day. There is no concept of breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There is no daily tea ritual. Sattvic food is not the same as organic food. Please read this blog post to find out more about sattvic lifestyle. Sattvic food is also different from Ayurvedic food.
It is also apparent that traditional practices did not miss a single chance to remind the followers for opportunities to fast. Intertwining the concept of Ishtadevata (favorite version of god), Hindus observe fast seeking oneness with their favorite deity once, twice, or more times a week. According to shastras, people of all ashramas must undertake fast. For example, a householder should fast at least once in a week by remaining on empty stomach until afternoon.
Fasting, as presented in the Vedas and Shastras, is a method of purification which can help a person synchronize his daily life with his spiritual life. Fasting is also associated with developing closeness with assigned gods different gods during the days of the week. For example, people fast on Monday for Lord Shiva, Friday for Santoshi Maa, Saturday for Lord Hanuman etc.
Besides these weekly fasts there are bi-monthly such as Ekadashi, Chathurthi, and Pradosham. Monthly fasts are also observed for shivarathri, kruthigai star, or Chittirai star. Annual fasts for Navarathri, or Gokulashtami are a must for pious devotees. These fasts are observed in penance, for dropping self-hatred and self-doubt, or from the space of gratitude. Sometimes, rituals require participants to abstain from either taking any form of food or restricting to only liquids, fruits and vegetables.
Science and eating
Scientific studies show that abstinence from food is beneficial when observed in moderation. Yogis can live without solid food intake for years. Yogis absorb the energy directly from the elements. For normal beings, the intake of food is one of the necessities of the body. Being able to control our eating patterns for our body is a big achievement. If we can control our eating habits, stay aware of the patterns of the body, it will become easy to control all other senses.
This video explains the benefit of eating in moderation and restricting food intake to once a day—
Fasting descried in this blogpost is not a diet. Please read this post to understand the difference between fasting and diet.
Contrary to the popular belief, limiting food intake or abstinence for certain periods of time will help our body use all the reserve food stored in our body. The fat reserves in our body are burned and it helps in maintaining a healthy body and mind. The fat cells are converted to glucose or energy. This process of burning fat molecules releases chemicals called ketones. This chemical strengthens the brain cells that are responsible for memory and learning. Fasting has shown to increase ketones by twenty-times.
In recent times, several studies have noted that calorie restriction in diet has many advantages. The most important of these is to increase longevity of individuals who follow a low-calorie lifestyle with intermittent fasting.
Shastras on fasting
The shastras or scriptures present a cosmic connection in the purpose for fasting. The tides of the ocean rise during full moon and reduced by new moon. These phases also affect the human body, as our body consists of approximately 70% water. The shastras provide a method to fast based on the waxing and waning stages of the moon. Each fast, while being linked to a deity, also indirectly influences by our body or the climate. The eleventh day of either fortnight (Shukla paksha (waxing phase of the moon) or Krishnapaksh (waning phase of the moon)) the Ekadasi, is one of the more important dates for fasting. Skanda Purana notes that fasting on Ekadasi is a preventive medicine. Some undergo complete fast without any intake of solid food, others observe by avoiding rice and taking only fruits and vegetables.
Climate based fasting is undertaken during the Chaturmas, the four months of monsoon. This helps one to adjust to the slower metabolism in the cooler months. Thus, this time of the year has significant fasting days because the weather is not conducive for digestion. The energy quality of food available is also considered to be low due to the climate.
When one meal is taken in the afternoon this is called Eka Bhukta. Eating once at night is called Nakta Vrat. To fast completely or take only a little fruit is Upavas.
There is an extreme face of #fasting called Fasting Penance. One goes without food for a vow that is undertaken. This is normally undertaken by the spiritually evolved souls who have renounced materialistic life, whose purpose is to lead a spiritually immersed life and guide other beings to higher truths.
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