Spiritual fasting. What do you think about it? Does it intrigue you? Personally, the thought of it makes me hungry, a bad sign. Fasting is definitely not my strong suit.
Recently, I read Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse. The second book of Hesse’s I’ve read, and admittedly my first on Buddhism, Siddhartha follows a fictional character (paralleling the real Siddhartha Gautama) who throughout his life searches for oneness and truth.
My upbringing has taught me to read all non-Christian, even non-evangelical, religious material with a filter. This filter acts less like a screen door and more like an actual door. Closed all the time.
As I’ve aged in spirit and body, I’ve come to realize that much can be learned from other religions. We all yearn for God. If a life-long monk wanted to take me out for coffee, or better yet, donuts, then you can bet I would take his offer. I’d probably even have to pay and I would still take his offer. I love donuts. I love talking about God with donuts.
This theoretical monk has spent his life learning to fast, learning to think, learning to be less. I would love to hear his insight, wouldn’t you? Just because religious roads differ, this doesn’t mean travelers can’t bump into each other every now and then. And get donuts.
Consumerism, Buddhism, & Ism-ism
Fasting was never pushed on me. I’m not blaming anyone else for my ignorance towards it, but let’s just say that the culture I grew up in simply didn’t value it. “It’s more of an Eastern thing,” I would hear or, “Just don’t tell any one about it.”
Regardless of how I got here, I’m here now. I believe that Americans have much to gain from learning to fast.
Our eyes have been purchased by the cinema of must-have.
Our hearts foster inward desires over the outward love of Christ.
Our bodies sleep best in a commonplace of complacency.
What if consumerism was just another powerless foe? What if we could break the paradigm? I wonder about a world where Western Christians could chose others before themselves, every day, with every dollar and every minute.
In the book, the young adult Siddhartha wishes to go into business with a merchant. The merchant asks Siddhartha what he can do. Siddhartha replies, “I can think. I can wait. I can fast.”
“… fasting, what good does it do?”
This is my favorite part:
It is very good, sir. If a person has nothing to eat, then fasting is the wisest thing he can do. If, for instance, Siddhartha had not learned how to fast, he would have to accept any service today, whether with you or with someone else, for hunger would force him to do so. But now Siddhartha can simply wait, he knows no impatience, he knows no plight. He can stave off hunger for a long time and he can laugh at it. That, sir, is what fasting is good for.
So what do you think, is it time Westerners start fasting? Can we still have donuts? Since I’m new to this whole thing, I hope to learn one or two things in the comments.
The excerpt from that book actually reminded me of the Bible! In the Scriptures the Apostle Paul talks about how we have the right to do anything, but he would not be mastered by anything. I think fasting is a good way to practice that. When we become less concerned about what we want we become more concerned with what other people need.
Well said Ian and a great point. This is why I feel fasting is so crucial in the West. We are so inward focused. We need to shine out-ward!
You might be interested in reading the chapter on fasting in Richard Foster’s “The Celebration of Discipline”. His faith perspective in Quaker, but he explores the subject with a rather broad historical Christian lens.
I actually think Quakers are pretty neat. I attended a Friends Church in Idaho; it was more non-denominational than Quaker, but they held a lot of the same values.
I’ll look that book up, thanks for the recommendation.
Agree. First of all – dont we often follow just another -ism that we made out of the teachings of Christ? The filter thing – I believe we are many times so far from the truths that a buddhist monk can have more wisdom on things that we do.