Besides it fasting also does one more thing. Hinduism has the belief that by learning to fast, a person also learns how to face other obstacles in his life. Fasting teaches how to face hardships of life with self control. While following Upvaas, or not eating due to some mental physical trouble, a person stops his dependence on the very basic need of human survival i.e. food itself. This way in the challenging situations body and mind announce their independence from the very basic needs of life. Hence it gives courage to the person to cut it off its dependence from the object he is missing so dearly. Of-course he becomes sad and depressed, still as a coping mechanism the person keeps on saying to himself that he can live without it and he can manage his life. Interestingly longer he keeps on fasting, stronger his independence becomes. For understanding the benefits of fasting it we can see how fasting is explained in Ayurveda medicinal system. The fasting (for a small duration) balances the three doshas in human body i.e. Vata, Pitta and Kapha in human body. In Ayurveda before a person is given the intensive treatment for complex problems, he is made to undergo fasting. Besides it human body is composed of 80% liquid and 20% solid. The gravitational force of the moon affects the saline fluid contents of the body. It causes emotional imbalances in the body, making some people tense, irritable and violent. Fasting acts as antidote, for it lowers the acid and saline content in the body which helps people to retain their sanity.
Now when body and mind have declared that this person does not need any more of Rajas and Tamas but a lot more of Sattva Guna, we need to find some ways to help the body increase it only. There is no harm in letting a person to continue with his desires of not eating (fasting). And in this fast if we can give him some diet that can increase the Sattva Guna in his body, his recovery will be fast and normal.
These things can be fruit juices or vegetable juices. The raw vegetables and fruits contain higher amount of Sattva Guan and lower amount of Rajas and Tamas. Rajasic and Tamasic foods are totally bad for depression patients, since these trigger negative thought processes in the mind. Best suited is the Sattvic food, which comprises mainly of fruits and vegetables.
The practical example of the effectiveness of Upvaas or not eating in a therapeutic way has always been present in society. It is to be noted that in Indian culture (Hindu religion) when a person dies then it is the tradition that for 13 days no food is prepared in the home of the dead person. Instead of this, in the house of the deceased person for 13 days there remain some regular spiritual seminars, Katahs, Yagyas and other things that soothe the pains of the family members and relatives. Idea behind this tradition was to decrease the Rajas and Tamas Guna hence reduce the sadness and depression and to increase the Sattva Guna by fasting and spiritual guidance. In Bhagwad Geeta (BG 14/17) it is said “from the Satva, knowledge is born". The food that is full of the quality of Satva is the cause of growth of knowledge. They promote energy and health; they also promote pleasure and happiness.
Moreover we see the instances in the scriptures when fasting was prescribed as a means of Prayashchit (penance) to reduce the guilt feeling. It is quite understandable. Any guilt feeling arising in heart increases the Rajas and Tamas in heart and mind many folds and so the person starts sinking in the feeling of sadness and helplessness. Here fasting increases the Sattva and reduces the Tamas and Rajas gunas. Hence his pain reduces and he comes to know that what ever wrong has been done is done and only way out is to look forward and not to repeat this again.
This way we can confidently say that Upvaas or fasting is surely a natural way to treat the depression as it is harmless, harmonizing, strengthening and most importantly body’s own reaction to fight any mental trouble. There are many individual experiences of the people suffering from various neurotic troubles like anxiety, depression panic disorders etc. and getting benefits from fasting.
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