Why do we fast?

Most devout Indians fast regularly or on special occasions like festivals. On such days they do
not eat at all, eat once or make do with fruits or a special diet of simple food.
Fasting in Sanskrit is called upavaasa. Upa means “near” + vaasa means “to stay”. Upavaasa
therefore means staying near (the Lord), meaning the attainment of close mental proximity
with the Lord. Then what has upavaasa to do with food?
A lot of our time and energy is spent in procuring food items, preparing, cooking, eating and
digesting food. Certain food types make our minds dull and agitated. Hence on certain days
man decides to save time and conserve his energy by eating either simple, light food or
totally abstaining from eating so that his mind becomes alert and pure. The mind, otherwise
pre-occupied by the thought of food, now entertains noble thoughts and stays with the Lord.
Since it is a self-imposed form of discipline it is usually adhered to with joy
Also every system needs a break and an overhaul to work at its best. Rest and a change of
diet during fasting is very good for the digestive system and the entire body.
The more you indulge the senses, the more they make their demands. Fasting helps us to
cultivate control over our senses, sublimate our desires and guide our minds to be poised and
at peace.
Fasting should not make us weak, irritable or create an urge to indulge later. This happens
when there is no noble goal behind fasting.
The Bhagavad-Gita urges us to eat appropriately – neither too less nor too much – yuktaaahaara
and to eat simple, pure and healthy food (a saatvik diet) even when not fasting.

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