FASTS AND THEIR IMPORTANCE
By His Holiness Swami Sivananda Saraswati
This article is an extract from the book Health and Happiness, authored by His Holiness Swami Sivananda Saraswati and first published in 1950.
The electronic publication of this article on this webpage is with the blessings and kind permission from The Divine Life Society, Rishikesh.
HEALTH TIPS > FASTS AND THEIR IMPORTANCE
Man’s foremost duty is to do Sadhana for the realization of God. For Sadhana a sound body and a sound mind are essential. Fasts helps a great deal in keeping the body in the best state of health With all the best possible precautions, it is very difficult to avoid committing mistakes in regard to the food that we take. A man with a great self-control may be moderate in food; but there are various other causes which he cannot avoid and thus his health gets impaired.
If there is the least symptom of disease in the body, it is a signal to fast for a day or two. Animals which depend only upon nature fast naturally if there is any disease, and cure themselves by natural means, e.g. Sunlight and fresh air, fasts and rest.
Cold, headache, slight feverishness, a little cough, loaded colon, are some of the signs of diseases, which, if neglected in the beginning, may take a serious form. To avert this impending danger, our Sastras have enjoined fasts on Ekadasi, Pradosha, Sivarathiri, Poornima, Amavasya, on particular days in the week for the propitiation of particular deities. One should observe fasts on any one of these days. But, as few persons are now in the habit of keeping the Indian Almanac, they may observe fasts on any weekday as it suits their work and convenience.
In the present circumstances, it is very, very difficult to fast without taking anything except water, without some practice. So, we must follow the golden mean of taking the juice of two or three fruits mixed with a considerable quantity of water. No solid food or fleshy fruits should be taken on that day. This kind of fast is good for preservation of health.
Really fast is a fast-curing agent for many of the ailments. It gives some rest to the stomach, and eliminates toxins from the body. It cleanses the body and thus makes it more energetic. It can cure many diseases. Much care is required in observing long fasts. They should be observed under the guidance of an expert; otherwise, if there is any mistake in their observance, there is every possibility of more harm than good being done to the system. Two or three days’ fasts can be observed without the guidance of an expert; but the daily use of enema during the fasts, and for a day or two afterwards, is necessary.
Short Fast Regimes
- First day – Juice of an orange or Mosambi or lemon, mixed with a glass of water, 2 or 3 times.
- Second day – the same procedure may be followed, 3 or 4 times.
- Third day – You may take the juice as a stated above, plus a cup of milk in the noon and at bedtime.
- Fourth day – You may take rice and milk for morning meals, and fleshy fruits for your evening meals, and also a cup of milk at bedtime.
- Fifth day – You may take your usual meal of Rotti, Dal and vegetables.
In this age, when there is a great lack of self-control, a weekly fast on any day, living on fruit juice, is much better and convenient; and this should be necessarily observed. Even this will be found difficult for many persons; so a half-day fast should invariably be observed by all persons. They should take fruit juice in the morning and in the noon, and have their usual meals before Sunset; or, they should have their usual meal in the morning and take no cooked food in the evening, and take juice of fruits mixed with water, only. By gradual practice, they should learn to fast one day in the week without taking any solid food.
Fasts for over a week not only cleanse the body, but give us more energy and power and also spiritual strength. Therefore, the Sastras have praised the merits of observing Navarathiri of Sri Rama, Krishna , Durga, Siva, etc.
If middle-class people observe these partial or half fasts on fruit-juice only, they will save much of their troubles and doctors’ bills. Tea and coffee should be avoided not only on fasting days, but even after the fast, if possible.
His Holiness Swami Sivananda Saraswati, served as Dr. Kuppuswamy in the rural rubber estates in Malaya between 1913 to 1922 prior to his monastic calling, bringing not only cures for ailment but also unsurpassed love and attention to the sick and needy.
His Holiness Swami Sivananda Saraswati is the Spiritual Guru and Guide of His Holiness Swami Shantanand Saraswati, who founded SivaSanta Medical Services in 1981 as a charitable project of The Temple of Fine Arts. SivaSanta Medical Services took on the name to institutionalize the wisdom and contribution of her founder, His Holiness Swami Shantanand Saraswati and his Master, His Holiness Swami Sivananda Saraswati.