It is often remarked that one must fast for spiritual strengthening. Fasting has been an innate cultural feature in many societies across the world. People not only fast for its spiritual significance but, also for consequent physical benefits. In some cultures fasting is a mandatory aspect of religious initiation. In history, fasting has been a means to purge, repent, protest, and prepare for important rituals related to events such as birth, weddings, and death.

There are innumerable fasting occasions in Indian culture due to the vast diverse expanse of the country. Each unique region has distinct deities and dissimilar religions-fasting, thus has become a beautiful amalgamation of disparate, homogenous practices. Fasting traditionally in Hindu culture is associated with keeping the body lighter. Food is a strong stimulus. When we consume large quantities of food, the body becomes dense and a major hindrance in meditation rather than a spiritual receptor.

A common belief is that fasting allows the body to be a vessel for spiritual knowledge with ease. Continuous fasting forces our senses to detach from the urges of the body, especially hunger, and thirst. It swerves from outer stimulus to inner seeking. Fasting purges the body and prepares it for long-awaited spiritual transformation.

Ramadan is the holy month for millions of Muslim adherents across the world. They strictly fast and religiously pray. Keeping constant remembrance of God through fasting is a divine convention, without parallel.

Fasting in Christianity is an integral part of the faith. Christian fasting dates back to biblical times when it was used to draw closer to God and seek His guidance. Spiritual growth, increased prayer, contemplation, and a deeper understanding of one’s relationship with God– are the core aspects of Christian fasting.

Judaism has important fast days like Yom Kippur, focused on reflection and seeking forgiveness through fasting, prayer, and self-improvement activities. During Yom Kippur, people abstain from food and drink for 25 hours in atonement for their sins and repentance.
The spiritual significance of abstaining from food on Yom Kippur is rooted in the belief that by denying oneself physical sustenance, one can focus more intently on spiritual matters.

The primary teachings of Buddhism are self-discipline and detachment from worldly desires, and fasting is seen as a way to achieve spiritual enlightenment. Buddhists fast according to their devotion, endurance, and personal goals. Buddhism has no strict rules or obligations regarding fasting. It is a personal choice based on one’s aspirations toward spiritual growth.

The key purpose of fasting is to achieve mastery over our urges rather than letting our basic desires control us. This has also been a fascinating, fundamental impetus for many ancient civilizations such as the Native American Vision Quest, where individuals fast and spend time alone in nature to seek guidance and vision from the spirits. Chinese Taoist Fasting emphasizes cleansing the body and mind through a specific diet and meditation practices. Ethiopian Orthodox Church members also fast for over 200 days a year as part of their religious observance.

Fasting is undeniably a method for purifying the body and nurturing the mind and spirit. The common goal of fasting in various world religions is to draw closer to God. However, its numerous beneficial effects on the body have led to its widespread adoption as intermittent fasting by the general population.

“The principle of fasting is taught in almost all major world religions as a means of developing a higher level of self-mastery and self-control, and also a deeper awareness of how really dependent we are” — Stephen Covey

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