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Venerable K. Sri Dhammananda Maha Thera
Religious Significance of Fasting
In Buddhism, fasting is recognized as one of the methods for practising self-control. The Buddha advised monks not to take solid food after noon. Lay people who observe the eight Precepts on full moon days also abstain from taking any solid food after noon.
Critics sometimes regard these practices as religious fads. They are not religious fads but practices based on a moral and psychological insight.
In Buddhism, fasting is an initial stage of self-discipline to acquire self-control. In every religion, there is a system of fasting. By fasting and sacrificing a meal once a day or for any period, we can contribute our food to those who are starving or who do not have even a proper meal each day.
'A man who eats too much', writes Leo Tolstoy, 'cannot strive against laziness, while a gluttonous and idle man will never be able to contend with sexual lust. Therefore, according to all moral teachings, the effort towards self-control commences with a struggle against the lust of gluttony?commences with fasting just as the first condition of a good life is self-control, so the first condition of a life of self-control is fasting.'
Sages in various countries who practised self-control began with a system of regulated fasting and succeeded in attaining unbelievable heights of spirituality. An ascetic was kicked and tortured, and then his hands and feet were severed on the orders of a rakish king. But the ascetic, according to the Buddhist story, endured the torture with equanimity and without the slightest anger or hatred. Such religious people have developed their mental power through restraining from sensual indulgence.
Source: Buddhist Study and Practice Group, http://www.sinc.sunysb.edu/Clubs/buddhism/
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