Question: Do you advocate a long fast from 30 till 90
days in order to purify the body for spiritual attainment?
Answer: I am not an advocate of asceticism, but at the
same time, I see the good work that many ascetics have done
and I do not wish to depreciate it.
Coming to the question of fasting, I think that fasting
is one of the ways by which the denseness of the body can
be diminished. And when one knows the right way of fasting,
when one is under the direction of someone who really knows
when a person should fast, and why and how he should do
so, and how he could gain the benefit of his fasting, then
great benefit can be obtained by it. Surgeons keep a person
without food for so many hours or days knowing that it will
help them heal quicker. In the same way spiritual teachers
may prescribe a fast to their pupils: sometimes being without
cereals, sometimes without eating meat, sometimes without
bread, sometimes living on milk, on fruits, and sometimes,
for a certain limit of time, without anything. They see
the capacity of the pupil: what he can endure and how he
can be benefited by a particular fast.
But, to tell the truth, I am the last person to prescribe
fasting. I only give some advice if persons themselves wish
to fast, for I know a story of a disciple who went to a
teacher and was told, 'In order to begin the practices you
must start with a three days fast.' One day he felt so hungry
that he ran away from the city in order never to see the
There is always a meaning if a teacher prescribes a
fast; he has a reason for it. There is an amusing story
of a great Sufi who lived in Bagdad; there are many
stories of his wonderful achievements. He had told a
young pupil of his to live on a vegetarian diet. The
mother of this young man, having heard that since the
boy went to the teacher he had grown pale and thin, came
to give the teacher a little talking to. He was at table
when she came and there was a chicken dish on the table.
So the mother said, 'You are teaching your pupils to
live on a vegetarian diet, and you yourself are enjoying
chicken!' The teacher opened the dish and the chicken
flew away. The teacher said, 'The day your son can do
this too, he can also eat chicken.'