Renunciation is a discipline that can reap great benefits for both the practitioner and the world around the renunciant. Going without food and or water, fasting, is one such type of temporary renunciation.
There are many types of fasts. One can quit meat for a while for a meat fast, one can quit dairy for a dairy fast, one can stop eating wheat or other specific food sources as a fast, one can fast of all food but still drink teas, water and juices for a liquid fast, there are water fasts, and the list goes on and on. The reason why fasts are temporary, is that once one changes their status to permanent, then they are no longer fasting but have transformed. So, one who fasts from meat for a month and then stays without meat is no longer fasting but has changed to a vegetarian lifestyle.
Fasts can put stress on the heart and can affect blood sugar levels and so the best way to conduct a fast is with your physician monitoring the situation. One possible side effect while cleansing is diarrhea so proximity to a toilet may be important.
Fasts are central to all spiritual and religious practices. Vegan Jesus fasted in the desert fasted for forty days and nights, Ramadan is a month of fasting from all food, all liquids, smoking and sex, Hindus fast more than most religions: on the eleventh lunar day (Ekadashi) twice a month plus on most festivals, Jains are always reducing their intake in a constant fasting struggle plus festivals and holy days, Lakota practices include Hamblecheya or a vision quest of no food nor drink during that medicine path, Catholics practice a minor fast at Lent, and the list goes on and on.
Some people fast for good health or dietary reasons. Fasting permits the digestive tract to clear out internal mucus, it improves bowel functions, it is done for colon health, to rid oneself of undigested foods, to cleanse from environmental toxins and for increased energy. Fasting teaches one how much time is spent in a day contemplating food, buying and preparing food and cleaning up from food. Fasting energizes and gives a person much more active time in a day. Typically one gains any weight loss during a fast back when normative eating returns.
To couple fasting with meditation, mantras, prayer and scriptural reading is phenomenal. One finds a more central essence of one’s being as they pear down to a core identity through the fasting process. Gone are the extraneous mental concerns and habitual patterns as one finds a more central true nature revealed. Fasting is like going to the top of a mountain, it is a place of clarity, insight and vision.
Now, let’s get a bit more sensible about fasting. It is only dining schedules. If a person eats beef hamburgers every day, to let a few days pass between burgers might let an animal live, they might feel a spiritual quality, they might derive some health benefit, but they just waited between burgers. It may hurt to fast, and some people get such a pleasure from their long drawn out suffering pose in public, but it is just a delay in the normal dining patterns. If you want to truly experience something spiritual from renunciation of diet, go vegan.
By going vegan one no longer participates in the greatest mass of suffering on Earth, animal slaughter. One also renounces the burning of the rain forests, the carnist experience of eating flesh and the demonic format of living at the expense of innocent sentient animals.
Think of someone who eats lamb shish kabob or kung pao chicken or meat hamburgers as their regular diet. Do you think their waiting a few days for the next animal to kill and eat is going to help their soul? Now think about a vegan who lives in renunciation, only consuming plants and minerals for food, medicine, clothing, shelter and transportation. Do you think if they give up eating all together for world peace that this will help?
Going vegan is not a fast, it is returning to a normal lifestyle. When normal vegan people fast to find higher spiritual ground, they truly find it.
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