Vanity thought #920. Fast but not furious

Fasting is actually a non-devotional practice and should be avoided and we don’t have any prescriptions to fast in our sādhana. This doesn’t sound right at first but it’s the fact, afaik.

On vaiṣṇava holidays we usually fast until noon but those aren’t fasts – it’s just good manners – do not eat until festivities are over. Same for Gaura Pūrṇima and Janmāṣṭamī – we are not fasting, we are just waiting for the Lord to come to dinner. Ekādaśī isn’t a real fast either, we just avoid certain kinds of food and there are no restrictions on how much we can eat what is allowed.

Fasting is a big thing in all the other schools but it makes no sense for practicing bhakti-yoga because of the prasāda thing – eating is actually service, can’t have too much of it.

There’s more to it, though – it’s really non-devotional, I mean harmful, I mean it shouldn’t be done, it should be avoided. Why?

First of all, there’s yukta-vairāgya as opposed to phalgu-vairāgya or śuṣka-vairagya, as Śrila Prabhupāda explained in the purport to this injunction by Caitanya Mahāprabhu (CC Madya.23.105):

    …the Lord forbade dry renunciation and speculative knowledge in all respects.

Here – it’s forbidden!

On one hand fasting is a karmic activity, people do it for all kinds of materialistic reasons – to lose weight, to look better, to detox, to fit into old clothes, to obtain some boons described in the scriptures. Fasting is a tapasyā, a sort of a sacrifice. You do something and you expect something in return.

We don’t do that, it’s an anartha.

On the other hand fasting is an impersonalist activity for those who desire liberation, both jñānīs and yogīs. Their whole existence is aimed at stopping interactions with material energy, which they don’t see as being under Lord’s control and that’s they main problem – they don’t want to be devotees, they want to be independent from the Lord. They don’t want to serve Him and they don’t want to serve His energy – māyā.

We don’t do that, it’s suicide, it’s driven by envy.

On the ordinary level fasting is perceived as a difficult task and so pride and potential fame become one of the driving factors. At least people want to prove it to themselves that they can do it if no one else is interested. It makes one feel good about himself – look at me, I’m such a powerful renunciate, I can control my senses, I can defeat hunger.

Devotees don’t do that, we don’t seek neither fame nor control over anything. It’s māyā.

Anytime anyone starts talking about fasting we should avoid that conversation because those selfish materialistic aspirations will contaminate our consciousness. We can’t listen to people who seek a boost to their pride or to their powers, it’s as bad as listening to them going on about sex.

Fasting should be rejected, period.

Why am I doing it myself then?

Well, I’m not fasting, I haven’t taken any vows and I didn’t make any promises. When people asked me about it I didn’t have any objectives in mind. I don’t have any particular goals so I can’t judge whether I’m successful in my “fast” or not. I don’t have any rules either – I’m not juicing, I eat fruit, I drink milk, I had yogurt – it doesn’t fit into any known fasting pattern and I don’t care.

When people go on a diet they have a list of “don’ts” and so when they slip up they feel guilty. I don’t have any “don’ts”, I have nothing to feel guilty about.

When people go on a diet they are prepared to fight with hunger, it’s a tough mental battle against your stomach. I’m not hungry, I don’t exert any mental force to keep my “fast” going. If I was hungry I would have quit right away – because fasting is non-devotional, remember.

I don’t know what happened to me. It wasn’t long time ago when I complained that my body is too old for fasting but during this last ekādaśī I suddenly felt like eating is not for me anymore. I spent the rest of that week wondering if I could stop it at all and when Monday came I simply tried to do it. I skipped all meals until dinner and when people asked me what I was going to eat I still wasn’t sure if I was up to it and decided to fast only at the last moment, after consulting with my stomach if it was going to be okay. It’s been okay ever since.

Somehow my body’s baseline shifted, thanks to some devotees I suddenly realized that eating is not that important, that we can survive perfectly fine on very very little, and that our “normal” dietary demands are only in our minds. Once that mental barrier to the possibility of not eating was gone everything became very easy.

I’m going to resume eating tomorrow but I still don’t know why. Normally the question is “why are you fasting?” but for me it has become “why eat at all?” – there aren’t any compelling reasons to.

There’s nothing unusual about this – it’s how we feel about eating meat – we don’t need a reason to avoid it, we can’t figure out the reason why we should and why people consider it food at all. It’s like no one is craving for dog food, devotees don’t crave for meat, and now it happened that my body doesn’t crave for food at all.

Physiological key to this is also very simple – once the body switches from digesting food to drawing on storage of fat it doesn’t need food anymore and it doesn’t feel hunger. It has everything it needs right there – in the fat tissue, it isn’t lacking anything. Well, I give it some vitamins and salt so it’s all good.

Would I recommend it to anyone? Umm, not fasting, no, but I would recommend the realization that food is extraneous to our existence. Do I have it? Can I share it? Not really, it’s just that I read something and it stuck in my head. I’ve read that many times before without getting any funny ideas but this time it struck, I don’t know why or how.

My obsession with this “fast” is non-devotional, too, and this entire article is self-centered but I thought these things need to be clarified.

It’s not true that I don’t feel any pride in myself or I don’t feel any interest in losing fat or I don’t feel any interest in food at all, or even hunger itself – I do, but to a degree that can be easily overlooked. The only problem was the headache in the first two days but that was because of toxins, not fasting itself, and I felt it was okay to tolerate it and wait until toxins get expelled. There were no problems ever since and I even tried living only on water, like today. Yet I WILL have a cup of warm milk before sleep because I’m not fasting and body needs sustenance even if it doesn’t know it itself.

I don’t know what’s going to happen next week or next month and I don’t want to speculate. After all, I’m not in control, my karma is. What concerns me more is that I haven’t chanted my rounds as well as usual this week. My distractions didn’t seem to have anything to do with fasting but this is the kind of concern that should put things in perspective – chanting comes first, life comes later.

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