Wednesday, March 11, 2015
To give a little background, on my recent trip to New York, I
Interest in Hinduism is growing all over the world and people are appreciating both the spiritual aspects and ancient Hindu scientific discoveries and making the choice to convert. Interestingly, Caucasian (white) population seem to be more interested in and converting to Hinduism than those with African descent (blacks - who seem to be more interested in converting to Islam) - something most likely governed by socio-economic and education levels, but I digress, this is a topic for a future article. Anyway, during my travels, I was bombarded with requests to address many questions related to Hinduism. One of the questions was "Why Hindus Fast?" Many Muslim commented that their Eid fasting is better than Hindu fasting because it is done for Forty days without a break and not periodically (once or twice a week etc) as in Hinduism.
Now, there's a lot of pseudo-science around religion and therefore I make it a point to explain everything from a strict scientific perspective using the real studies performed and validated by scientists around the world. This is also important because the underlying principles behind fasting are found in Ayurvedas which was written thousands of years ago. Bear in mind that most of the scientists making these discoveries are not even Hindus, and their motivations in the research are finding ways to improve human health and longevity. That makes it more amazing, but not unexpected, how modern science is constantly validating scientific discoveries made by Hindus thousands of years ago.
1. The Hindu practice of fasting may prevent and help cure cancer - Cancer is one of the leading killers in today's world and the treatment is sometimes considered worse than the disease itself. The researchers in the Longevity Institute at the University of Southern California have discovered that fasting helps deters growth of cancer cells. This is important because the Hindu practice of fasting, if applied
2. The Hindu practice of fasting may stop the growth of brain tumors - The researchers from the same the Longevity Institute from California have found that fasting makes the treatment of brain tumors twice as effective. For example, the survival rate from Gliomas (one of the worst but also very common type of brain tumor) increased by over 200% when fasting was also included in the treatment.
3. The Hindu practice of fasting may prevent and help treat diabetes and heart disease - Diabetes and heart diseases (blood pressure) are two more epidemics in today's world and it is a great news that fasting is able to help. The researchers at the Intermountain Heart Institute in Utah have discovered that fasting lowers both insulin levels and bad cholesterol while increasing HGH and glucose metabolism. They also found that fasting lowers IGF-1, triglycerides and glucose levels in blood thus lowering risks of diabetes, heart disease and cancer. The researches at Britain’s University of Manchester have also shown that fasting results in reduction in blood insulin levels. Fasting also protects heart against cardiovascular disease by protecting heart against the deadly ischemic injury.
5. The Hindu practice of fasting reduces risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases - Alzheimer's and Parkinson's are two of the leading diseases in the elderly all over the world and currently there is no cure for Alzheimer's. Now evidence discovered by researchers in the National Institute of Aging and Ohio State University USA have uncovered that fasting significantly delays these diseases. The researches clearly indicate that elderly who follow Hindu fasting practices properly will stay healthier and active longer when it comes to brain health.
6. The Hindu practice of fasting reduces DNA damage -
7. The Hindu practice of fasting helps Asthma, inflammation(including CRP<, IL-6, TNF, BDNF, and more), DNA damage, metabolic rate and more. Fasting in general improves pulmonary function and improves metabolic and other markers including but not limited to oxidative stress and inflammation etc, across the board throughout human body. Improvements in such a wide spectrum of body functions has a synergistic effect on human body thus curing and preventing a wide spectrum of diseases and abnormalities.
As the esteemed reader can see, fasting helps prevent and cure such a diverse spectrum of conditions, the above mentioned benefits of Hindu fasting are just some of the many that the western researchers are just beginning to discover. A complete analysis of modern day research and comparison with the ancient Hindu discoveries of the health benefits of fasting might require a complete book. Suffice it to say that more and more grants are being issued and more scientists are joining the research to further learn and rediscover what ancient Hindus had already learned and applied to their lives thousands of years ago.
Comparison with Islamic Fasting (Ramdan) -
This brings us to another important question - How is Hindu fasting different from the fasting practices in Islam and other religions? Many bhakts and westerners interested in learning more about Hinduism have also asked the same question. The most important thing that makes Hindu fasting different is simply that Hindu fasts are not strictly religious in nature. Hinduism is not a set of religious rules set in stone and the practice of keeping fasts is not strictly related to worship God. In the words of Swami Vivekananda - "Hinduism is beyond being simply
1. Islamic fasting potentially result in toxic dehydration because they don't allow water - Countless studies have shown that dehydration has no health benefits and is degenerative when it comes to health and mental well being. The cells inside the body start breaking when water intake is lacking and body is unable to flush toxins out of the system. Hinduism realizes this and allows water intake during a fast. In Islamic Ramdan people get dehydrated and end the potential benefits of fasts.
2. Islamic fasting is not long enough to reap the health benefits - The best benefits of fasting are obtained when it is intermittent and lasts for 24 to 48 hours. In Hinduism, most fasts are done from sunset of the previous day to sunset of the current day making them 24 hours long. In Islamic Ramdans, people eat in the morning before sunrise and then again on sunset of the same day again thus ending the fasts before the potential benefits begin.
3. Islamic fasts in practice result in gorging on food all
4. Islamic fasts disallow all essential nutrients - This will be a topic for another post and has not been discussed in this series so far but, in addition to water only fasts, Hinduism also allows for selected intake of nutrients for certain fasts. That makes sense because it allows people to ensure their bodies are not deprived of essential nutrients depending on the physical condition and requirements of the person doing the fasts. In Islamic Ramdans / Rojas, people simply accumulate toxic wastes because of dehydration and the fasting practice is not flexible enough to allow selective nutrient intake.
The bhaktganas and my brothers and sisters all over the world who know me well also know that I have been fasting since I was a little kid. I have done Solah Somwars (16 mondays),
Note: A word of advice to everyone - In ancient days there were sages and people well versed in Hindu medicine and herbology. These days we do not have them and that makes it essential that everyone looking to adopt the Hindu practice of fasting gets oneself examined by a trained ayurvedic doctor (or a regular allopathic doctor) to reap the most benefits of fasting.
at 10:03 AM