Fasting has long been associated with spiritual practice. Monks, nuns and ascetics have routinely fasted for various reasons, mostly in the belief that fasting brings one closer to the divine.
Fasting cannot be considered a spiritual practice in its own right, and will never bring us to enlightenment, though occasional fasting can certainly benefit our meditation by helping to purify our physical system, clarify our mind and brighten our outlook.
One of the direct benefits of fasting has nothing to do with its physical effects. The discipline, determination and focus required to endure a fast of any duration can certainly be applied to enhance the discipline of our meditation, our self-control and detachment from desires, in turn boosting our self-confidence and aspiration.
Sri Chinmoy writes:
“If you fast once or twice a month, it will purify your subtle nerves. Purity is of great importance in the spiritual life. But this purity does not come from fasting only. We also have to meditate properly. We have to offer our inner life to God. Then only will our outer life be properly purified and transformed. In addition to our inner prayer and meditation, if we fast twice a month or three times a month, it will aid us in purifying the body’s outer existence. It will also aid us in our concentration and meditation.”
“It is through aspiration, not fasting, that we reach our goal. In order to increase our inner cry, we have to meditate regularly and devotedly. If we meditate, then purification is bound to come. Fasting is not indispensable in the spiritual life. Only aspiration, our inner cry is indispensable. If we know how to aspire, then our nature will be purified. Then, in our meditation and contemplation we get the results of fasting.”
– Sri Chinmoy