Ramzan has begun and the month of Shravan is round the corner. Every religion has its share of fasts—‘upavas’ in Sanskrit. It means sitting next to or residing in close proximity to the higher reality. Every fast has its own set of rules on what you can eat and what must be avoided. So, in Shravan, we avoid foods that excite the senses and lead to feelings of sluggishness, and in Ramzan, we follow strict timings and every meal is consumed only after offering prayers and sharing it with loved ones.
Fasts came into existence as a means of disciplining the sensory organs, mainly the tongue. They attempt to put you in touch with your stomach and sharpen both your hunger and satiety signals. The gurus, sages, prophets who encouraged and set rules for fasting were hoping for us to ask ourselves some important questions like ‘Do I really need to eat all this?’ Or ‘Can I really not survive without my morning tea/coffee?’ Or ‘Is my afternoon sluggishness because of the way I eat my lunch?’
Sadly, be it Shravan, Ramzan or any other fast, people now just follow the bare rituals and are clueless about their true essence. We now follow our dietician’s random diktat of only 1/2 spoon of oil or no rice, rather than pay heed to our taste organs, stomach or traditional eating habits.
This is what fasts wanted to weed out—our reliance on others to decide what, when and how much to eat. Fasts seek to make you self-reliant and put you in charge of your health (body weight too) and decide when you are over-indulging and when you must not ignore hunger and feed the body.