Jain Fasting

This article is just plain disturbing. It describes the Jain ritual of fasting and how some followers in India take it to its extreme. Jainism is my family’s religion, and the whole fasting thing is part of what drove me away from the religion (and all religion) in the first place.

Granted, in America, I’ve never heard of Jains fasting until death, but there are many Jains who fast for eight days straight (boiled water being one exception) during the holy season, which is scary enough.

If you’re not familiar with Jainism, try making sense of this paragraph from the article:

… Jains believe in reincarnation. But Jains also believe that salvation can be reached by an individual’s effort to follow an ascetic, non-violent life. Fasting is part of that effort.

The practice of fasting until death is supposed to be reserved only for Jains facing an unavoidable calamity–old age, disease or severe drought, for example. By fasting, it is thought that a Jain can free his or her soul, ending the cycle of reincarnation. A Jain wishing to fast until death must receive permission from family members and gurus. About 200 Jains die in India from such fasts every year, according to scholars.

Ugh. I hear things like that and it makes me forget about the positive aspects of Jainism (mostly the non-violence focus).

Of course, the article isn’t really so much about the fasting itself. It’s about how Jains want the freedom to “practice their religion” and kill themselves via fasting, opposing those who claim euthanasia is banned in India.

I’m actually on the Jains’ side here– they should be allowed to do as they please. I just think they’re gravely mistaken in thinking their fasting is getting them any closer to breaking “the cycle of reincarnation.” That thinking is what needs to be stopped, not the fasting. Of course, no one’s going to attack a religious tradition…
[tags]Jainism, fasting, India[/tags]

  • Julie Marie

    so if a Jain gets permission and fasts to death, then their soul is permanently at rest and they don’t get reborn?

    • Nitesh

      Thats not the case. Fast unto death helps you get a better reincarnation which would further help you get liberated. Only way to get liberated is Awakening.And awakening can happen only by meditation and following other things, which actually help on you going close to yourself.

  • http://www.friendlyatheist.com Hemant

    I believe that if they fast to death, they’re that much closer to ending the cycle of rebirth. It’s a long cycle…

  • ruchika

    u see man….it’s like…i wud like to ask,”have u ever fasted??”,,,,or it’s all u are writing based on ur knowledge of vision only???first try,to FEEL things…

    i don’t agree with fasting until death when u have an exam the next day…!!!or wen u have sum friend’s b’day party!!!,,,but u know mr. friendly,,,
    “fasting is what makes you strong,it makes you realise that …yes,i can live without that yummy pizza craving”..and when this feeling develops…another feeling starts…”if i can live without food(the biggest requirement for life…scienifically)…then i can live without any other damn thing in this world…that gives me pains”!!!!!!!!!!
    ..now,u got my point…we follow to attain the higher being….we try to realise our soul…by detaching from body….that this soul is eternal and we don’t require anyTHING to keep it alive!

    i guess…enough…and watever i said was based on facts and feelings!
    and moreover,i am a technical person!!!okkk….
    chao….take care….

  • ziggy

    my own experiences with fastings and body purification practices in general thought me much more than all the books i read and knowledgeable people i listened to.
    And the experiences were liberating.

    If fasting to death is good or bad, right or wrong- who knows. it’s the mind which decides that. since the mind is always wrong it can not be trusted.
    what is important is to be what you are; which is a pure consciousness,
    and fasting helps in that – as fasting clears the mind and its cobwebs.
    Eventually one transcends beyond the mind,
    natural Kriyas arise.

    But now I am talking about things which modern man does not know.
    The Truth is stranger than fiction.

    Lets live Jains alone since we do not understand the greatness of life.
    We only know our own, most of the time, useless thoughts, which we believe have some value.
    They are meaningless.

    Transcending beyond the mind and becoming consciousness and awareness makes life natural and light.
    Life is very simple, there is no fear and there is absolute freedom.

    Mental- intellectual mind is a hindrance,
    while consciousness is.

    CONSCIOUSNESS IS. U R THAT CONSCIOUSNESS
    SO IS EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING.

    When u purify ur body enough, and fastings help in that, u might get to that state
    and the u’ll know.

    It is directly perceiving knowing.
    (it’s not a grammatical error. our everyday language does not apply)

    Many blessings to u all
    those who fast experience blessings

    ziggy

  • Dheeraj Jain

    The real motive behind jains fasting is about make oneself feel about soul , i had fasted for continous 8 days and now presently while am typing this am on 4th day of fasting. my feeling is it makes me calmer ,cool ,and dispassionate . my mind is open to all spiritual thinking as am not doin any work . i can think about myself ,where i am wrong ,and i also have control over my emotions .fasting cannot be explained . one must feel it .. i cannot describe it by words ..

  • SJ

    Its not only fasting…rather its not about fasting.  Jainism is firstly about understanding who we are, understanding what life is and where it resides (similar to understanding the living beings and non-living beings in modern science)
    A soul, which resides in body of every living organism can be born and re-born in form of any living organism based on his deeds. So one can be born a stray dog or be born as a son of a rich human being, all the consequences of our deeds (karma). A human who is our mother today may become our daughter in her next birth. The soul has seen so many cycles of birth and death that we may have had a relation with all the organisms around us, in any of our past lives.
    The cycle of birth and re-birth continues because of our attachments and aversions, which keep us bringing back. Hence, God has shown us five virtues of Non-Violence, Truthfulness, Non-Stealing, Celibacy and Non-Possessiveness to get rid of all the attachments and aversions. 
    As for fasting, first it is essential to know why it is done. As we always protect our family’s life, our friends’ life and always worry about their well-being and leave no stone un-turned to assure that they are in best of their health;  if we broaden our horizon beyond our family and friends and include everyone that has life, we would think of saving their lives too. So, as plants and all plantations have life in them, plucking, pulling, cutting them – kills all the living forms in them. Hence, fasting is observed to grant them life  - at least for that day or that meal when u abstain from eating. Hence, following the virtue of Non-Violence. Also, controlling hunger helps to increase self-control and determination. We keep on feeding our bodies with all sorts of cuisines and delicacies. We get so attached to our own bodies that we freak out to look beautiful, have the greatest skin, have the sexiest figure. On outside we end up being gorgeous but we subject ourselves to so much of mental pressures and tensions to make our body look great as we are so possessive about our looks and body. Hence, fasting is a means to detach ourselves from the severe attachment and possessiveness we have towards our body. Hence, following the virtue of Non-Possessiveness.
    It is no use to fast, if one does not fast for its real reason – no matter for how many days we keep ourselves hungry, we will not get the complete return, until our perspective is correct.

  • Samir

    Jain fasting is not torture to body as many people think. It is not only physical fasting, mental fasting is also necessary. It is pointless to fast while craving for food and if you have no desire to eat then how can it be torture to body? I have done three day’s fasting in past and it was a wonderful feeling. Next week I am planning to fast for eight days. Can’t wait.


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