I never liked fasting and always ate food to my heart’s content.(There are so many types of fasting and the fasting I am referring here is staying for a complete day only on minimum consumption of fruits). Yes, I am a foodie and I love food. I even eat food happily on Shivaratri without any guilt. Hunger was too much of suffering for me and I did not believe in such suffering. So, what made me do fasting? Its Lord Krishna.
Since the time I studied Mahabharata, I fell in love with Lord Krishna. He is an amazing personality and studying his pastimes and teachings became my obsession. In this study, I came across a conversation between Lord and Dharmaraja where Lord explains the many benefits of doing fasting on Ekadasi. According to the material I studied, doing fasting , jagaran ( being awake through out the night) and chanting Lord’s name on Saphala Ekadasi(this happened recently on December 30th) brings good karma of doing spiritual sadhana for 5000 earthly years. There were so many other benefits mentioned by Lord. Wow! I was super-inspired by Lord’s words and my greed for good karma got excited and said – lets do fasting, jagaran and chanting.
My husband discouraged me from doing such extreme things suddenly as he knows my hunger and love for food but I was blinded by my greed to accumulate good karma of 5000 years and I ignored his discouragement. On the same day, I had to do physically taxing work and undertake a car journey for 5 hours. I did that doing chanting and fasting(I ate 2 guavas, 1 orange, few grapes for the entire day as I wanted to consume minimum food).The day was an emotionally draining day as there were multiple disappointing situations but surprisingly, I was calm in my heart and continued my chanting and fasting. Coming to jagaran, I could do it till 2:30 AM(I was ok with 10% of what Lord promised..500 years is not a bad deal..) and next day, I broke my fast. This was my fasting journey on Ekadasi.
Surpisingly, hunger did not hurt me, disappointments did not hurt me, physical work did not hurt me. Nothing could bring down my spirits on Ekadasi.It could be the power of continous chanting or the day’s greatness. Whatever it was, I was serene and peaceful. But its a different story the next day. In the morning, my mind went blank and my senses could not work like everyday. Though I ate my favourite potato curry the next day, my tongue could not taste it well like other days. My mind could not enjoy what I was eating and I was just blank.It took me some hours to recover.This experience taught me below 3 lessons.
Lesson 1 – Annam parabrahma swaroopam(Food is the form of divine): I truly understood the value of food. I realized how it helps me to lead a normal life. Everyday, food helps my senses work and experience life. I can see, smell, taste thanks to timely and sufficient consumption of food.Food gives me enough strength to puruse my spiritual and material interests. It lets my mind work and stay stable. It feeds me not only physically but also on other levels like emotions, thoughts and spirit. I felt profound respect and gratitude towards food and could see divinity in it.
Lesson 2 – Cooking food is a noble task: I could see divinity in all those chefs, cooks, my family members and myself for the ability to cook. I cook everyday but I took this skill for granted and thought its a menial job. But now, I developed respect and value for cooking. Cooking is nothing short of saving one’s life. It is noble and a great skill to posess. Now, I feel happy and grateful to cook for myself and others. I also feel gratitude towards all those people who cooked and fed me.
Lesson 3 – Annadanam mahadanam(Food donation is the greatest donation): I could now understand why so much of importance is placed on food donation to the needy in all religions. Every person, whether a sinner or a saint, is bound to experience hunger and not everyone is privileged enough to have food everytime they are hungry. The greatest difficulty in life is not to have food for days together and donating food is life-saving. So, yes. Annadanam mahadanam.
These are the 3 lessons I learnt from this Ekadasi fasting.
Will I do my next Ekadasi fasting? Yes, I will. But it will not be only for good karma. It will also be for reinforcing the above 3 lessons as mind can easily forget lessons and take things for granted. Ingratitude can happen quite easily and effortlessly and I dont want to be ungrateful.
May every person and every being be blessed with abundant quantity of food which is delicious and healthy. May every person and every being’s hunger be satisfied properly. So be it! So be it! So be it!
Sarve jana sukhino bhavanthu!
-Contributed by Geetanjali Balachander