Procedure for Fasting

Voluntary fasting on certain days is called “upavása”. The derivative meaning of the word “upavása” is to remain in proximity to Iishvara; that is to say, to keep one’s mind absorbed in the thought of Iishvara. Those who have received initiation into Ananda Marga Iishvara Prańidhána must observe fasting compulsorily on all ekádashii days (the eleventh day after the new or full moon). Sannyásiis and renunciates must also fast on all púrńimá and amávasyá days.

On a fast day no food is to be eaten from sunrise until sunrise of the next day. Drinking water is also forbidden on fast days. If, due to unavoidable circumstances, a person is unable to fast on the prescribed day, then he or she must fast on either the preceding or the following day. During sickness, fasting is not required, but in such cases written permission will have to be obtained from the Dharma Pracára Secretary of the Saḿgha.

On and around the times of new and full moon, one may observe that the gaseous and aqueous factors in the body rise up into the head and chest, creating an uncomfortable feeling. Therefore, if a person does not take food at these times, these factors will be drawn down from the higher portions of the body to the lower portions, thereby alleviating the uncomfortable feeling.

The food that we take is converted, through transformation, into its final essence, called shukra. Shukra is the food of the brain. From it, the ectoplasmic particles of the unit mind are produced. If one fasts according to the system, no excess shukra will excite the lower vrttis of the mind, and the mind will be led toward the higher vrttis. Furthermore, as a result of fasting, the poisonous and unnecessary waste of the body gets destroyed and expelled. Moreover, the energy that is not expended in digesting food can be utilized for other purposes. Therefore, a fast day is an excellent time for sádhaná.