In five days, the Baha’i Fast will come to a close and Baha’is around the world will celebrate their New Year (for more about the Baha’i calendar click here). It’s important to know, however, that the practice of Fasting is common to all worlds great religions. Below, I’ve compiled some writings from each of the sacred texts on the topic of Fasting and restraint. Enjoy!
Others may not understand that we must practice self-control, but quarrelling dies away in those who understand this fact. The Tempter masters the lazy and irresolute man who dwells on the attractive side of things, ungoverned in his senses, and unrestrained in his food, like the wind overcomes a rotten tree. But the Tempter cannot master a man who dwells on the distasteful side of things, self- controlled in his senses, moderate in eating, resolute and full of faith, like the wind cannot move a mountain crag. The man who wears the yellow-dyed robe but is not free from stains himself, without self- restraint and integrity, is unworthy of the robe. But the man who has freed himself of stains and has found peace of mind in an upright life, possessing self-restraint and integrity, he is indeed worthy of the dyed robe.
He whose inflowing thoughts are dried up, who is unattached to food, whose dwelling place is an empty and imageless release – the way of such a person is hard to follow, like the path of birds through the sky. ~ Dhammapada
If one man should obtain all those (sensual enjoyments) and another should renounce them all, the renunciation of all pleasure is far better than the attainment of them. ~ Laws of Manu
By eating little, and by standing and sitting in solitude, let him restrain his senses, if they are attracted by sensual objects. By the restraint of his senses, by the destruction of love and hatred, and by the abstention from injuring the creatures, he becomes fit for immortality. ~ Laws of Manu
But for earthly needs Religion is not his who too much fasts or too much feasts, nor his who sleeps away an idle mind; nor his who wears to waste his strength in vigils. Nay, Arjuna! I call that the true piety which most removes Earth-aches and ills, where one is moderate in eating and in resting, and in sport; measured in wish and act; sleeping betimes, waking betimes for duty. ~ Bhagavad Gita
Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? Wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours.
Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high.
Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord?
Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?
Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? When thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?
Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy reward. ~ Isaiah 58:3-8
O ye who believe! fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self restraint.
Fasting, for a fixed number of days; but if any of you is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed number (should be made up) from days later. For those who can do it (with hardship), is a ransom, the feeding of one that is indigent. But he that will give more, of his own free will, it is better for him, and it is better for you, that ye fast, if ye only knew. ~ Surah of the Cow
Fortunate are ye to have obeyed the commandment of God, and kept this fast during the holy season. For this material fast is an outer token of the spiritual fast; it is a symbol of self-restraint, the withholding of oneself from all appetites of the self, taking on the characteristics of the spirit, being carried away by the breathings of heaven and catching fire from the love of God. ~ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
Man has different ways of approaching God. One man thinks he must make extraordinary efforts in science to arrive at the knowledge of the divine and another thinks that he must train his morals. The prophets teach us that the only way to approach God is by characterizing ourselves with the attributes of divinity.
Some people lay stress on fasting. They affirm that in augmenting the weakness of the body they develop a spiritual sensibility and thus they think to approach God.
Weakening one’s self physically does not necessarily contribute to spiritual progress. Humility, kindness, resignation, and all these spiritual attributes emanating from great physical strength are acceptable to God. That an enfeebled man cannot fight is not accounted a virtue. Were physical weakness a virtue the dead would be perfect, for they can do nothing.
If a man be just, kind, humble and merciful and his qualities are acquired through the will-power — this is Godlike. A child cannot kill a man; but a Bonaparte can abstain from war, from shedding blood, from devastating countries. A dumb person will not speak ill of any one, a paralyzed hand cannot strike; but a strong arm can refrain from striking. Justice, love and kindness must be the instruments of strength, not of weakness.
Exaggerated fasting destroys the divine forces. God has created man in a way that cannot be surpassed; we must not try to change his creation. Strive to attain nearness to reality through the acquisition of strength of character, through morality, through good works and helping the poor, through being consumed with the fire of the love of God and in discovering each day new spiritual mysteries. This is the path of intimate approach. ~ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá