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Fasting: Penance, Blessing, Hypocrisy Or Me-ism?

Tejwant Singh

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Fasting: Penance, Blessing, Hypocrisy or Me-ism.


Fasting is very common among many religions except in Sikhi. Guru Nanak talks about it in the second Pauri of Jap where he criticises these kinds of nonsensical, mindless and useless rituals which bring to naught.

For Guru Nanak, it is all about living in Ik Ong Kaar’s Hukam in all aspects of life.

This kind of self-inflicted suffering cannot be food for a thought-Mann- but to the contrary.

We offer Langar instead, the most humanitarian thing to do.

There are many studies that show that Muslims gain weight during Ramadan because of the food binging before and after.

The Catholics, during Lent after Easter only eat fish for a month and we see all the fast food restaurants offering the deep fried mercury laden fish to the pious ones which is very unhealthy.

Fasting is also used as a sign of protest. Gandhi used it. Mastar Tara Singh did the same and so did Sant Fateh Singh, the head of Akaali Dal many years ago. During the fasting, people drank salt water only in order not to get dehydrated.

My family has been Akaalis from the very beginning. In fact, Pita ji, my granddad who was a Doctor and a Lawyer at that time, which was a great feat on its own, left his practices to go to the prison in order to get the keys of the Gurdwaras from the Mahants.

Once Sant Fateh Singh went on a hunger strike and I may have been 6 or 7 did the same. I was very hungry all day long but in my own little way did it for the panth as a protest and felt very proud. Mind you, I also was part of the Punjabi Soobha protest march during the same time and was behind bars for 10 minutes which made me feel happy for some reason.

My mum used to keep Karva Choth fast (a Hindu ritual) once a year but the best part of that was what we as kids used to love it were the goodies being gorged both before the sunrise and after the sunset and we were part of the goodies all day long

Many prisoners at Gitmo who have never been charged of any crimes have been on hunger strikes for many months but are force fed by our government.

Let’s start a conversation:

1. Do you fast for any reason? Please express why.
2. Is fasting for religious purposes a good or bad thing?
3. What does fasting mean in people’s lives?
4. Does fasting make them live in an honest manner after taking part in this ritual?
5. Is force feeding the prisoners at Gitmo right or wrong? Please explain your reasons.
 

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Tejwant Singh

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Gyani Jarnail Singh

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KUALA LUMPUR MALAYSIA
Parents up in arms against Sungai Buloh school

BY TRINNA LEONG, KIMBERLY YEO AND DIYANA IBRAHIM


"There must be a better way of doing this. Even if it is the fasting month, there is no harm in allowing non-Muslim children from eating at the canteen."

This was the view of a parent, Mastura Abdullah Sani, 22, who expressed shock after learning that non-Muslim pupils of SK Seri Pristina in Sungai Buloh were ordered to have their meals in the school shower room.

Parents who turned up to collect their children from the school this evening were puzzled why the school authorities had resorted to such a measure.

There were also others who turned up at the school gates this evening just to see what was happening after word spread that non-Muslims pupils of the school were ordered to spend the recess, eating in the shower room.

"This is wrong," said another parent who wanted to be identified only as Zarimah.

"I know for a fact that earlier, the children were allowed to use the canteen, but suddenly the canteen was shut.

"They could have used one of the classrooms instead of the shower room," she said.

Several parents claimed that the canteen was out-of-bounds after the operator closed shop for the fasting month. The school authorities tied a red tape around the premises to stop children from using the place.

The case of schoolchildren dining in a shower room during recess would not have seen light if not for a concerned parent who did her own investigations.

The woman, who has a daughter studying there, was skeptical when told about this last Saturday by a school van driver.

The mother, identifying herself only as Guneswari, visited the school on Monday and what she saw shocked her.

"The non-Muslim students were put in the shower room, which is adjacent to the toilet.

"The doors to the shower room were closed, there was no ventilation. The smell from the toilet was so strong," she told The Malaysian Insider.

Incensed that her daughter was treated in a such a manner, Guneswari demanded an explanation from the school authorities. She met the school's afternoon supervisor.

But when there was no response forthcoming, Guneswari decided to expose what was going on in the school.

Her posting on Facebook has now gone viral. It has garnered more than 3,000 shares.

Guneswari also dismissed reports earlier today that the canteen was allegedly closed for renovations.

“You can see it on my Facebook page. There is nothing going on in the canteen," she said.

After the Facebook posting became viral, Education Ministry officials showed up at the school this afternoon where they inspected the shower room and canteen. They also spoke to the school administration.

Deputy Education Minister P. Kamalanathan later said that they have ordered the school to stop asking the non-Muslims pupils to have their meals at the shower room.

A police report over the incident was also lodged at the Sungai Buloh police station this evening. - July 23, 2013.






http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/parents-up-in-arms-against-sungai-buloh-school
 
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Tejwant Singh

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TSA Ramadan Guidelines Spark Controversy

The TSA has released an advisory to travelers about what they might witness from Muslims observing Ramadan, leading to a debate about whether the release puts an unfair spotlight on the Muslim community.

During a discussion about the issue on HuffPost Live, Muslim Public Affairs Council Director Haris Tarin argued the TSA advisory makes Muslims seem "quite alien."

"Although well intentioned, it unfortunately brings out the sense that muslims become this fifth column or this completely different group of people for the month of Ramadan," Tarin said.

Another voice against the TSA's guidelines is Melody Moezzi, a UN global expert who said the TSA has not taken similar measures for other religious holidays.

"Have they done this for Ash Wednesday, just to tell everybody that people may have ash on their foreheads, or people may be genuflecting more when it's Lent or things like that?" Moezzi said.

HuffPost Live's Marc Lamont Hill pointed out that the TSA has released guidelines for Jewish holidays, particularly "ones that are less understood."'

One can watch the video below:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/23/tsa-ramadan-guidelines-controversy_n_3641020.html?ref=topbar
 

spnadmin

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Attached are the TSA guidelines that are subject of controversy in the video. Muslim spokesmen are very concerned.

Some brief statements. "Muslims become a 5th column, go into full spiritual molt, it is probably well-intended, ............................spiritual practices become "securitized," definitely insulting, treating us differently, criminalization of culture in the name of security..........to assume that travelers don't know about it!"

The Muslim advocates seem to go with training flight personnel, but reject publication of guidelines of any kind. Toward the very end there is some support for the use of video.

So how are we different?

Sikhs have done hand-stands to educate the TSA, and the public, about the turban and kirpan. We have struggled to gain accommodations to avoid turban searches, to arrive at other ways to conduct turban searches, and to carry kirpan on airlines. We do this through training sessions with TSA operatives and pilots and fight attendants, meetings with Homeland Security and TSA leadership, TSA web site notices, pdf downloads of Sikh beliefs and practices, press releases, public meetings, television appearances and YouTube. And our organizations - Sikh Coalition and SALDEF - have been eminently successful.

A flight attendant who spoke made the very good point that the goal of the advisory is not so much to educate the public but to educate the personnel at the checkpoints who are quick to draw the wrong conclusions and then violate the personal dignity of Muslims. Listen to the flight attendant, because he makes many practical points that are based in reality not ideology.

So why do we advocate for education and Muslims are offended by this small attempt to educate? What am I missing?
 

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angrisha

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I think fasting does have a place with in religious practices, it is something that has been going on for hundreds of thousands of years. Practices of sitting in meditation could mean that individuals could go days or longer without food or water. There are theories in this world, that there are people who can become so in touch with the divine that they can essentially subsist on air. Might seem impossible, but I think we know that you really cant rule anything out.

I think many religions use fasting as a means of discipline for the body. It takes an immense amount of self control to fast for 30+days straight, and that type discipline can carry forward into your everyday life and how you remember god on a daily basis. Its the same thing as wearing an religious artifact to symbolize something, the reason you wear it is to remind you on a min by min bases to maintain that connection with god.

The interesting thing becomes when ppl use fasting (of anything really doesn't have to be food) to get something for themselves. Like, abstaining from food as a bargaining tool to receive what you want. Its interesting because God has never asked anyone to give up anything, other than the preconceived notions which we keep in our minds about him. So, I do wonder when ppl who fast for a purpose beyond connection, what happens when they don't receive it.... or even if they do?


Meaning of fasting, will vary to each individual depending on your mindset as to why your partaking in that practice. Same with the honesty, you can fast all you want and never be an honest person. Anand sahib summaries this very nicely:

Jī▫ahu maile bāhrahu nirmal, Bāhrahu nirmal jī▫ahu ṯa maile ṯinī janam jū▫ai hāri▫ā.

The Gitmo issue is something that can ethically be considered on both sides, IMO either way they're getting their point across... weather they dont eat or being forced to eat it brings recognition to the issue at hand... and wasnt that the point to begin with?
 
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Harry Haller

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Every minute spent fasting is a minute spent in the self.

It is unnatural and completely pointless and more importantly, benefits no one. Instead of fasting for 8 hours, spend an hour feeding beggars, you get to eat instead of being hungry, you get to help someone and you save 7 hours!
 

akiva

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Is Guru Ji's objection to fasting, or mindless, meaningless fasting?

How can mindful, meaningful fasting be worse than mindless, meaningless Langar?

(Specifically asking as a personal spiritual discipline, not in terms of service to others)

Akiva
 
Oct 19, 2012
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spirituality in sikhism means when our true self starts manifesting..anything related to mind and body are not considered spirituality..sins in sikhism understanding are only washed thru love to god, the rest all including rituals are just flattering our ego or haumai... all types of practices applying pain n suffering to mind n body are rejected because it can lead to pride...only practices that leads to humality are well approved in sikhism.. food for our soul are names of god not anything else.. with names it rises.
 

akiva

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spirituality in sikhism means when our true self starts manifesting
But one's true self can't truly manifest while being mastered by the body/lusts - and while one is attached to the material world.

Simran/meditation can help develop control/discipline of one's physical attachments.

So can meaningful fasting.

So can exercise.

Everyone has to find their own way.

FWIW, limited Fasting (one day a week) has been medically documented to be beneficial to health and longevity.
 

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Is Guru Ji's objection to fasting, or mindless, meaningless fasting?

How can mindful, meaningful fasting be worse than mindless, meaningless Langar?

(Specifically asking as a personal spiritual discipline, not in terms of service to others)

Akiva
akiva ji


Mindful fasting would not be any better or worse than mindful langar; and mindless, meaningless fasting also would not be any better or any worse than mindless, meaningless langar.

To the subject of fasting: Many shabads liken fasting to a practice that enables pride of self to be disguised as humility, and arrogance to be disguised as self-deprivation. Shabad Guru is not wagging a finger at langar or Turban Day or Turban Pride. Shabad Guru is calling us to consider whether we are deluding ourselves when we fast.

And of course we can delude ourselves in langar and in Turban Day. Langar practices in recent times have been similarly criticized when they are shows of personal wealth and keeping up with the 'jones'es' which can be the case in congregations that have rotating langar seva. But your question goes off the topic of fasting and puts focus onto the mindless and meaningless aspect of any and many an activity in which we take pride. It is like changing the subject line on an email message from "Fasting" to "Pride and the False Self."

Are there any forms of fasting that do not of themselves lead to fake humility and false pride in a false self? That question underlies Guru Nanak's objections to fasting.

I think fasting before a medical procedure does have a mindful purpose and would not of itself lead to pride. Are there others?

Of course there are people who can turn anything, including fasting before a medical procedure, into an opportunity to gild themselves with religious merit.

What do you mean by "meaningful" fasting?
 
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spnadmin

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Anything can lead to pride - by your standard the Turban Pride movement of the Akaal Purkh Ki Fauj should be forbidden as well.
Akiva ji Yes, "Everyone has to find his own way." However that is a kind of red herring. The Sikh way - Sikh maarg is guided by Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. The thread is an opportunity to find out how other religions see value in fasting, which does not in any way nullify the objections to fasting voiced by Guru Nanak.

I am not familiar with the Turban Pride movement of the "Akaal Purkh Ki Fauj" per se, though I am familiar with Turban Days at gurdwaras. Turban Days are intended to teach the meaning of the turban as part of Sikh identity to children. From that children (and we hope adults) learn how the turban was central to overcoming pride of caste and class consciousness in the social history of Sikhi. It is also supposed to give them the courage they need to contend with humiliation. Being humble and being OK with humiliation are not interchangeable notions. Being prideful and being proud of the turban are also not interchangeable concepts.
 
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akiva

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spnadmin Ji

Are there any forms of fasting that do not of themselves lead to fake humility and false pride in a false self? That question underlies Guru Nanak's objections to fasting.
Of course. Religious fasting doesn't have to lead to fake humility and false pride -- that depends on the individual.

It's a tool.

but fake humility and false pride can sneak into any action -- that doesn't in itself invalidate the action.

What do you mean by "meaningful" fasting?
Anyone fasting just because it's expected socially/religiously is not being meaningful.

Someone fasting with a specific reason/goal -- and aware of that reason.

(I'm using "aware" in the"spiritual" usage -- more than just "knowing" -- it implies a deeper integrated knowing.)

As such there has to be a "honesty" about the reason for fasting.

For some fasting is a way of mortifying the flesh; for some a way of sharing, if just for a short while, the hunger of those without in order to increase their sensitivity to the other's plight; for some it's a discipline -- to train the body to eat when the mind chooses to eat, not when desire wants to. To realize that food is not a "given"

And the fact is that fasting does change one's state of consciousness -- due in part to the lower blood sugar and fluid levels -- enabling the person fasting to think/perceive in a different way.

if one learns/grows from it then it's meaningful. if it's an empty ritual then it's not.
 
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1. Do you fast for any reason? Please express why.

I think when we call it fasting it adds much more than is really required sometimes. I started to experiment with fasting over a year ago just to understand what real hunger is. We have come to think that we need 3-6 meals a day etc and most is habit when in reality I have a desk job, I do not require that much sustenance during the day as I originally thought so go without till the evening, benefits I can claim are better focus, cost/time saving!

2. Is fasting for religious purposes a good or bad thing?

When religion gets combined with fasting, the original lesson is long lost later on down the line. It then turns into a, your good if you fast and bad if you don't, people getting paranoid if they break a fast, guilt, get gifts from "god" for keeping it, binging which defies the whole point etc.


3. What does fasting mean in people’s lives?

For me it's just a change in my relationship with food, amount, timings what works best for me. For the majority religious fasts I think its more a trade with "God" for bounties!

4. Does fasting make them live in an honest manner after taking part in this ritual?

Maybe a very small percentage. As most feel if they behave for the duration of the fast is most important and resume to normal behavior afterwards thus, in reality a sham, similar to thinking taking a bath in sacred rivers will purify yourself only to have a clean slate to fill again!

5. Is force feeding the prisoners at Gitmo right or wrong? Please explain your reasons.

I think everyone has a choice in what to eat, when to eat and if some choose not to for whatever reasons so, this is oppressing those rights? But flipside is the prison has a responsibility to keep the prisoners safe? It's a difficult one that I would need to ponder over.
 

angrisha

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The purpose of intention plays a big role in why anything is ever done. If you perform Seva for praise then are you really showing humility or feeding your ego? But there is also the point that no one gets there over night, and you have to take steps even if your intention might not be pure, with the goal in mind that one day you will reach that point where it is. So everyone has to start somewhere, just going through the motions to start, cultivating the idea of proper intention before we can fully engage in it with 'meaning'.

The concept of meaning is also relevant... whats meaningful to me to be in service to god might not be the same to someone else. So, the purpose then becomes, which allows you to live at your highest and best self... which is always changing.

Turban Days are intended to teach the meaning of the turban as part of Sikh identity to children.
Heres a question about relating to a religious identity, if you start associating what you do 'religiously' to a culture arent we breeding more unconsciousness? In the sense that 'turban days' might make it okay for insecurities some children have of being different (especially in areas with few punjabi ppl), but do we then start to associate the turban as a cultural tool rather than one that can be used to facilitate a connection?
 

Tejwant Singh

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angrisha ji,

Guru fateh.

Before I get into the intricacies of the thread, I have noticed that you have used the word God often in your posts:

There are theories in this world, that there are people who can become so in touch with the divine that they can essentially subsist on air.
I think many religions use fasting as a means of discipline for the body. It takes an immense amount of self control to fast for 30+days straight, and that type discipline can carry forward into your everyday life and how you remember god on a daily basis.
Its the same thing as wearing an religious artifact to symbolize something, the reason you wear it is to remind you on a min by min bases to maintain that connection with god.
Its interesting because God has never asked anyone to give up anything, other than the preconceived notions which we keep in our minds about him.
The concept of meaning is also relevant... whats meaningful to me to be in service to god might not be the same to someone else. So, the purpose then becomes, which allows you to live at your highest and best self... which is always changing.
Would you be kind enough to describe what you consider is God in your own words, so I can understand better where you are coming from?

Thanks & regards

Tejwant Singh
 
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Jul 18, 2007
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I'm glad you brought this up Tejwant veer ji.

"God" - use of speech marks is deliberate as in 99% of cases its used as an external entity, something out there somewhere that we look towards, picture, want to pursue, worship.

The more I contemplate the divine nature (Kudrat) the more I realise I need to go through a process of reverse engineering to get this "God" thinking out of my mind! But years of brain washing by elders, friends, religions, movies, pictures, songs etc etc I figure its one of the biggest barrier to understanding what the truth really is.
 

Harry Haller

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1. Do you gorge for any reason? Please express why.
yes, it fills me up

2. Is gorging for religious purposes a good or bad thing?
I thought the act of gorging was the religion..

3. What does gorging mean in people’s lives?
it gives them meaning and a false sense of inner satisfaction

4. Does gorging make them live in an honest manner after taking part in this ritual?
no of course not, it makes them feel full, smug and self satisfied

5. Is force feeding the prisoners at Gitmo right or wrong? Please explain your reasons.
now that Tejwantji, is a thread on its own
 

Tejwant Singh

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Harry ji,

And you have no idea how much I appreciate it. A bit of garam masala never hurts in any kind of gorging.:)

About the latter one, it is a serious talk. Please go ahead and start a thread.

Regards

Tejwant Singh
 

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