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Scientific studies on the health benefits of fasting help explain why people who fast regularly—Buddhists, Mormons, Baha’is and others—tend to live longer and healthier lives.
But the Baha’i teachings emphasize the spiritual benefits of fasting, so Baha’is don’t fast simply for dietary or physical, health-related reasons. In fact, Baha’is fast primarily for the benefits fasting confers on the human spirit:
Thou seest, O God of Mercy, Thou Whose power pervadeth all created things, these servants of Thine, Thy thralls, who, according to the good-pleasure of Thy Will, observe in the daytime the fast prescribed by Thee, who arise, at the earliest dawn of day, to make mention of Thy Name, and to celebrate Thy praise, in the hope of obtaining their share of the goodly things that are treasured up within the treasuries of Thy grace and bounty. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 299.
In their annual fast, Baha’is set aside an entire 19-day Baha’i month not only for daily fasting, but for extra meditation and prayer, for reflection and rejuvenation. The Baha’i Fast allows for a period of spiritual recuperation, for refreshing and reinvigorating the soul:
Fasting is the cause of awakening man. The heart becomes tender and the spirituality of man increases. This is produced by the fact that man’s thoughts will be confined to the commemoration of God, and through this awakening and stimulation surely ideal advancements follow. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 3, p. 305.
If you’d like to try the Baha’i Fast, it’s simple: don’t eat or drink during the daylight hours from March 2nd to March 20th this year.
Instead, take the extra time that you’d normally use for preparing and eating your mid-day meal to nourish and refresh your soul, with reflection, meditation and prayer. While you’re fasting, think back on the entire year and ask yourself: what can I do in this coming year to make my life and the lives of others better? How can I be of service to humanity? In other words, let your spirit “associate with the Fragrances of Holiness:”
O God! As I am fasting from the appetites of the body and not occupied with eating and drinking, even so purify and make holy my heart and my life from aught else save Thy Love, and protect and preserve my soul from self-passions and animal traits. Thus may the spirit associate with the Fragrances of Holiness and fast from everything else save Thy mention. – Ibid.
You might find, as you fast with the Baha’is, that fasting sharpens your spiritual discernment, brings you closer to God’s will for our lives, and increases your happiness and joy:
These are the days whereon Thou hast bidden all men to observe the fast, that through it they may purify their souls and rid themselves of all attachment to any one but Thee, and that out of their hearts may ascend that which will be worthy of the court of Thy majesty and may well beseem the seat of the revelation of Thy oneness. Grant, O my Lord, that this fast may become a river of life-giving waters and may yield the virtue wherewith Thou hast endowed it. – Baha’u’llah, Prayers and Meditations by Baha’u’llah, p. 79.
Fasting can definitely purify our souls and help us detach from the material world—but that doesn’t mean it will always be easy. Sometimes, and for some people, the initial days of going without food or drink when the sun is up may seem difficult. But for most, after those first few days of bodily acclimation to a little hunger and thirst, something new happens—a fresh energy arrives, along with a heightened awareness of the inner spiritual reality we all possess.