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Fasting in Mahaabhaarat

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Fasting in Mahaabhaarat
From The Mahaabhaarat, Shaanti Parv, CCXXI (221)

Yudhishthir asked Pitaamaha - "Common people say that fasting is Tapas (penance). Is fasting, however, really so, or is penance something different?"

Bheeshm said - "People do regard fast, measured by months or fortnights or days, as penance. In the opinion, however of the good, such is not penance. On the other hand, fast is an impediment to the acquisition of the knowledge of the Soul. The renunciation of acts (that is so difficult for all) and humility (consisting in the worship of all creatures and consideration for them all) constitute the highest penance. That is distinguished above all kinds of penance. He who betakes himself to such penance is regarded as one that is always fasting and that is always leading a life of Brahmacharya (celibacy). Such a Braahman will become a Muni always, a deity evermore, even if he lives in the bosom of a family. He will become a vegetarian always, and pure forever. He will become an eater always of ambrosia, and an adorer always of gods and guests. Indeed, he will be regarded as one always subsisting on sacrificial remnants, as one ever devoted to the duty of hospitality, as one always full of faith, and as one ever worshipping gods and guests."

Yudhishthir asked - "How can one practicing such penance come to be regarded as one that is always fasting or as one that is ever devoted to the vow of Brahmcharya, or as one that is always subsisting upon sacrificial remnants or as one that is ever regardful of guests?"

Bheeshm Jee said - "He will be regarded as one that is always fasting if he eats once during the day and once during the night at the fixed hours without eating during the interval. Such a Braahman, by always speaking the truth and by adhering always to wisdom, and by going to his wife only in her season and never at other times, becomes a Brahmachaaree (celibate). By never eating meat of animals that are not killed for sacrifice, he will become a strict vegetarian. By always becoming charitable he will become ever pure, and by abstaining from sleep during the day he will become one that is always wakeful. That Braahman who never eats till gods and guests are fed, wins, by such abstention, Heaven itself.

He is said to subsist upon remnants, who eats only what remains after feeding the gods, the Pitri, servants, and guests. Such men win numberless regions of felicity in next life. To their homes come, with Brahman himself, the gods and the Apsaraa. They who share their food with the deities and the Pitri pass their days in constant happiness with their sons and grandsons and at last, leaving off this body, attain to a very high end."

On Maas Vrat
From The Mahaabhaarat, Anushaasan Parv, CVI (116)

Yudhishthir said - "The disposition is seen in all the orders of men, of observing fasts. The reason, however, of this is not known to us. It has been heard by us that only Braahman and Kshatriya should observe the vow of fasts. How, O Grandsire, are the other orders to be taken as earning any merit by the observance of fasts? How have vows and fasts come to be observed by persons of all orders, O King? What is that end to which one devoted to the observance of fasts attains? It has been said that fasts are highly meritorious and that fasts are a great refuge. O prince of men, what is the fruit that is earned in this world by the man that observe fasts? By what means is one cleansed of one’s sins? By what means does one acquire righteousness? By what means, O best of the Bharatas, does one succeed in acquiring heaven and merit? After having observed a fast, what should one give away?"

Bheeshm Jee said - "In former days, O king, I heard of these high merits, as attaching to the observance of fasts according to the ordinance, I had asked the Rishi Aangiras of high ascetic merit, the very same questions which you have asked me today. Questioned by me thus, the illustrious Rishi, who sprang from the sacrificial fire, answered me even thus in respect of the observance of fasts according to the ordinance.

Aangiras said - "As regards Braahman and Kshatriya, fasts for three nights at a stretch are ordained for them. A fast for one night, for two nights, and for three nights, may be observed by them. As regards Vaishya and Shoodra, the duration of fasts prescribed for them is of a single night. If, from folly, they observe fasts for two or three nights, such fasts never lead to their advancement. For Vaishya and Shoodra, fasts for two nights have been ordained (only on certain special occasions). Fasts for three nights, however, have not been laid down for them by persons conversant with and observant of duties.

(1) That man of wisdom who, with his senses and soul under control, fasts, by abstaining from one of the two meals, on the fifth and the sixth days of the Moon as also on the day of the full moon, becomes endued with forgiveness and beauty of person and conversance with the scriptures. Such a person never becomes childless and poor.
(2) He who performs sacrifices for adoring the deities on the 5th and the 6th days of the Moon, transcends all the members of his family and succeeds in feeding a large number of Braahman.
(3) He, who observes fasts on the eighth and the fourteenth days of the dark fortnight, becomes freed from maladies of every kind and possessed of great energy. [t seems of Devee and Shiv fast]
(4) The man who abstains from one meal every day throughout the month of Maargsheersh (Agahan), does it with reverence and devotion, and feeds a number of Braahman. By so doing he becomes freed from all his sins. Such a man becomes endued with prosperity. He becomes endued with energy. In fact, such a person reaps an abundance of harvest from his fields, acquires great wealth and much corn.
(5) That man, who passes the whole month of Paush, abstaining every day from one of two meals, becomes endued with good fortune and agreeable features and great fame.
(6) He who passes the whole month of Maagh, abstaining every day from one of the two meals, takes birth in a high family and attains to a position of eminence among his kinsmen.
(7) He who passes the whole month of Bhagadaivat (Phaalgun), confining himself every day to only one meal becomes a favorite with women who, indeed, readily own his sway.
(8) He who passes the whole of the month of Chaitra, confining himself every day to one meal, takes birth in a high family and becomes rich in gold, gems, and pearls.
(9) The person, whether male or female, who passes the month of Vaishaakh, confining himself or herself every day to one meal, and keeping his or her senses under control, succeeds in attaining to a position of eminence among kinsmen.
(10) The person who passes the month of Jyeshth confining himself every day to one meal a day, succeeds in attaining to a position of eminence and great wealth. If a woman keeps it, she reaps the same reward.
(11) He who passes the month of Aashaadh confining himself to one meal a day and with senses steadily concentrated upon his duties, becomes possessed of much corn, great wealth, and a large progeny.
(12) He who passes the month of Shraavan confining himself to one meal a day, receives the honors of Abhishek wherever he may happen to reside, and attains to a position of eminence among kinsmen whom he supports.
(13) That man who confines himself to only one meal a day for the whole month of Proshthapad (Bhaadrapad), becomes endued with great wealth and attains, to swelling and durable affluence.
(14) The man who passes the month of Aashwin, confining himself to one meal a day, becomes pure in soul and body, possessed of animals and vehicles in abundance, and a large progeny.
(15) He who passes the month of Kaarttik, confining himself to one meal every day, becomes possessed of heroism, many spouses, and great fame.

I have now told you, what the fruits are that are obtained by men observing fasts for all the months in detail.

There is no Shaastra superior to the Ved. There is no person more worthy of reverence than the mother. There is no acquisition superior to that of Righteousness, and no penance superior to fast. There is nothing, more sacred in heaven or earth than Braahman. After the same manner there is no penance that is superior to the observance of fasts.

It was by fasts that the deities have succeeded in becoming denizens of heaven. It is by fasts that the Rishi have attained to high success. Maharshi Chyavan, Maharshi Jamadagni, Maharshi Vashishth, Maharshi Gautam, Maharshi Bhrigu – all these great Rishi endued with the virtue of forgiveness, have attained to Heaven through observance of fasts. In former days Aangiras declared so unto the great Rishi. The man who teaches another the merit of fasts have never to suffer any kind of misery. The ordinances about fasts, in their due order, have flowed from the great Rishi Aangiras. The man who daily reads these ordinances or hears them read, becomes freed from sins of every kind. Not only is such a person freed from every calamity, but his mind becomes incapable of being touched by any kind of fault. Such a person succeeds in understanding the sounds of all creatures other than human, and acquiring eternal fame, become foremost of his species.



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Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/05
Updated on 09/29/13