Some of you may have heard me talk about the Baha’i Faith before – if you haven’t, it’s the religion that I’m a part of. Feel free to check out more details about it on the official Baha’i website. I think a post I’ll soon be writing will be titled “What Baha’is Believe”, so check back in a little while for that if you’re interested!
Here’s a quick little summary to get things started. Basically, Baha’is believe that there is one God, who periodically sends down guidance to humanity about our reality. God sends down these messages through the form of individuals, called Manifestations of God. There have been many of these Manifestations in history who brought guidance to humanity: Jesus Christ, Muhammad, Moses, Buddha, Krishna – just to name a few. Thus, the Baha’i Faith believes in a Unity of Religions. We believe that all of the religions that were developed as a result of the messages of these manifestations that I have just mentioned (and more), are all one. We believe that periodically, humanity needs a new message that is updated based on the needs of the time – we call this progressive revelation. Just as many Christians believe that Moses existed and is a legitimate figure (Manifestation of God is the term I would use, but I avoid as I don’t want to offend anyone), they believe that Christ brought the new message that humanity needed.
Baha’is believe that the Bab was a Manifestation who came after Muhammad, and heralded the coming of Baha’u’llah. Baha’u’llah, is the most recent Manifestation of God, who brought a new message for humanity 150 years ago.
Some additional principles that Baha’is believe in are: The oneness of humanity, the development of spiritual qualities, a spiritual afterlife, service towards fellow human beings, equality of genders, independent investigation of truth, and the harmony between science and religion.
Okay, so now that I’ve given a brief explanation, I’ll get to the point of this post.
Every year for 19 days, Baha’is participate in a fast where they refrain from eating and drinking between sunrise and sunset. Here is a quote that explains the purpose of fasting:
“Fasting is a symbol. Fasting signifies abstinence from lust. Physical fasting is a symbol of that abstinence, and is a reminder; that is, just as a person abstains from physical appetites, he is to abstain from self-appetites and self-desires. But mere abstention from food has no effect on the spirit. It is only a symbol, a reminder. Otherwise it is of no importance. Fasting for this purpose does not mean entire abstinence from food. The golden rule as to food is, do not take too much or too little. Moderation is necessary. There is a sect in India who practice extreme abstinence, and gradually reduce their food until they exist on almost nothing. But their intelligence suffers. A man is not fit to do service for God with brain or body if he is weakened by lack of food. He cannot see clearly.”
– Abdu’l-Baha (Baha’u’llah and the New Era, 286)
It just so happens that right now Baha’is all around the world are fasting until the 19th of March. If you know any Baha’is and they seem too grumpy or tired lately, well now you know why!
I find that I’m often faced with a lot of discomfort when I tell people that I’m fasting. They look at me with judgment and assume that I’m blindly following an ignorant religion that forces me to do something extreme and unsafe. I assure you, that is not the case whatsoever. One of many things that I love about the Baha’i Faith is that most things are explained in detail with clear, logical reasoning. In the Baha’i Faith, the fast is set during the time of the year, where all over the world experiences moderate temperates, it doesn’t fall during extreme heat of the summer or cold of the winter. Also, there are a number of exemptions outlined, where, for example, children, pregnant women, menstruating women, those who are ill, and those working in areas that involve heavy labour, are encouraged to feed themselves normally as their bodies require, and not take part in the fast. If it were unsafe in any way for a person to fast, they are exempt from fasting. So, for this and many other reasons I do not think that fasting is unsafe or dangerous.
Some people also are bothered because fasting seems so “extreme.” Honestly, I do understand. It’s something that’s really not common in North America. Actually, in my opinion, any kind of outward religious practice or worship is quite uncommon in North America – aside from attending a religious event or communal gathering. Thus, anyone taking part in an outward display of religious practice or worship tends to be looked at as extreme. Well, I’m not really here to argue as to whether fasting is extreme or not, I suppose you can decide that for yourself. Personally, I think that it is quite naive to assume that outward displays of religious practice or worship should be looked down upon.
Anyways, I’m not here to make convincing arguments. You’re welcome to your own opinions and beliefs, I’m just here to chat!
I enjoy fasting because it’s a time where things slow down and I take time to reflect on where I’m at spiritually. This year for example, I really am. I’ve been neglecting my spiritual side a lot. It makes me feel a lot of emptiness when I do that, which is why I’m relieved to get back in touch.
Thanks for listening 🙂