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Fasting in Jainism

It is well known that many religions and philosophies practice and preach fasting for special purposes, most being for spiritual cleansing. Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, and Islam are some religions that have fasting as one of their many holy practices.​1​

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Jainism is a religion most prevalent in India, and has over 5 million people practicing it as their primary belief system. Devotees come from across the world, including the United States, Kenya, and the United Kingdom. Fasting is a common practice in Jainism, and while practitioners may take it upon themselves to fast at any time, common fasting periods are usually during festivals and days considered holy. Interestingly, Jain women tend to fast more than men.

Fasting is carried out as a form of penance, to purify the mind and body, and is a reminder​2​ of Mahavira’s (the man who gave Jainism its present form) emphasis on renunciation (the rejection of a belief, claim, or action) and asceticism (self-discipline and the practice of avoiding indulgences). It is not enough to simply not eat; one has to stop wanting to eat as well. If the desire for food exists, the fast is pointless.

Some Types of Jain Fasts

The types of Jain fasts given below are NOT all types.

  • Vruti Sankshep: To limit food items eaten.
  • Rasa Parityag: To give up one’s favorite foods.
  • Chauvihar Upvas: To give up food and water for the whole day.
  • Digambar Upvas: To drink water once a day before sunset.
  • Tivihar Upvas: To drink only boiled water between sunrise and sunset.
  • Ekasanu: To eat one meal a day and having boiled water between sunrise and sunset.
  • Beasanu: To eat two meals a day and having boiled water between sunrise and sunset.

While fasting is an integral part of Jainism, Ayurveda suggests regular, short-term fasting as well.

Some of us who do not subscribe to Jain beliefs and philosophies, can take into account the benefits these fasts have on our bodies​3​ as a reason to explore Jain fasting techniques suitable for us and our current health scenario, regardless of the religious principles attached to them.

References

  1. 1.
    Editors S. Fasting. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/fasting
  2. 2.
  3. 3.
    Khullar S. Fasting Benefits. How IF Causes Weight Loss. https://calwellness.in/2020/01/31/how-does-intermittent-fasting-cause-weight-loss/

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