Saturday, July 02, 2016

Our Common Fast

Oh you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you many learn piety and righteousness" Q 2:183

Is not this the fast that I choose to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free and and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?   Isaiah 58: 6-7

This material fast is an outer token of the spiritual fast; it is a symbol of self-restraint, the withholding of oneself from all appetites of the self, taking on the characteristics of the spirit, being carried away by the breathings of heaven and catching fire from the love of God.” – -Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, pp. 69-70.
Laity who receive and observe the vows known as the Lay Bodhisattva Precepts stop eating at noon on six days of each month. The purpose of their limiting food intake is manifold: out of compassion for those suffering from starvation, they "give by reducing their share." Further, they respect the Buddha's practice of moderation and eat less on those days. The fasting observance is related to several liturgical practices observed on the six fasting days: they recite their precept codes, recite scriptures and increase their hours of meditation on those days. Fasting: A Buddhist Prespective
On June 28, the Turkish community in Albuquerque invited participants in the Interfaith Hunger Coalition to share in an Iftar (end fast) meal. Necip Orhan, a community leader, explained to us the importance of fasting from food and water during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

"Ramadan is a time to awaken compassion and solidarity with others and in particular with the poor. We are urged to be more liberal in giving during Ramadan and are required at the end of fasting to give Sadaqatul-Fitr, an amount to enable all to share in the spirit of warmth, affection and brotherhood.Ramadan is above all an opportunity to reorient oneself to the Creator and the natural path of goodness and God-consciousness." An excerpt from AbdulWahid Hamid's Islam The Natural Way.

For most of us, the concept was not at all difficult to grasp: fasting becomes the focal point of our spiritual practice during Yom Kippur,  Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, the 19-Day Fast. In Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, the Baha'i tradition, there are two outcomes: to become closer with the Creator and to raise awareness about those who are suffering hunger and thirst (and do something about it).

"It is easy to talk about the world's problem of hunger. We can feel sorry that millions of people go to bed hungry each day. But not until one can actually feel it in one's own body is the impact truly there. Compassion based on empathy is much stronger and more consistent than compassion based on pity,"  Rabbi Allen Maller wrote in How Fasting Connects Islam And Judaism
There were more than 50 participants (including host families) in the Iftar meal on Tuesday, June 28
Fasting helps us become aware of our excesses, which has the effect of creating gratitude, reduced consumption and a recognition that a power outside ourselves controls our destiny .Interfaith Conversations has great perspective on fasting in the Christian, Jewish and Muslim traditions. Religious Fasting Traditions (a blog post by William Eden) takes a broad overview of fasting across a range of faith communities, including differences among Christians.

Political fasting (a hunger strike) has also been used as a tool of protest against an injustice, often to bring attention to violations of individual or collective rights or to the sufferings of others. The most important important teacher of this concept was Mahatma Gandhi, who often combined concern about people and issues with self-purification. Ambassador Tony Hall, one of the founders of the Circle of Protection, reminds us that people of faith engaged in public fasts must remember that God is at the center of their sacrifice.

"A fast has to be first unto God to humble ourselves and unleash God. Your faith is also unleashed when you struggle against injustice. Fasting, when done with the right heart and the right motive, may provide a key to unlock doors when other keys have failed. When you set aside the needs of your body and seek God with all your heart, you're saying, "God, I mean business, and I'm not going to let go unless you answer!" Fasting gives an edge to your prayers -- a power. And it says I do not intend to take no for an answer."

The Langar
Three of the guests who attended the Iftar meal  belong to the Albuquerque Sikh Gurudwara. While there is little emphasis on fasting in the Sikh tradition, the Sikhs have a wonderful practice, the langar community meal..The concept of equality is at the center of the langar (kitchen).

For Sikhs, eating together in this way is expressive of the equality and oneness of all humankind. At the same time, it strengthens the Sikh sense of community. Visitors and guests are readily and warmly included in the great hospitality of the Sikh tradition. There are no rituals observed in the langar and everyone eats together. All the food is vegetarian so that no religious group is offended.

"We are taught two things: that we are dependent on the constant need for a greater power, and how little gratitude we have shown all this while in the midst of enjoying the abundance of food. We eat and drink in abundance, but rarely thank the Provider. Often we waste, carelessly spend and spoil ourselves without any sense of guilt or responsibility, despite being aware that millions out there suffer from unimaginable hunger and poverty.
Raudah Mohd Yunus, Express-Tribune Blogs

1 comment:

bscott said...

This was a wonderful experience and your reflections deepen its meaning, Carlos. Thanks for sharing.