The Baha’i Fast falls during the month of Ala–the last month of the Baha’i calendar. During these 19 days, Baha’is abstain from food and drink between sunrise and sunset. While this abstention from food and drink is a test of one’s will and discipline, the Fast is not just about abstaining from food. The Fast is, primarily, a spiritual practice.
What is sacrifice? As Baha’is, we believe that it is – in short – the act of giving up something for something of greater value.
Sacrifice has always been a concept of great fascination to me. It is fundamental to the progress and consummation of the human soul. Consequently, it is a practice that I try to apply in all aspects of my life.
As you would already know from previous posts, Baha’is are currently observing the Fast. In this time, I find myself asking: how does the concept of sacrifice tie in with the act of fasting?
One might say that I’m sacrificing my physical comfort because my Faith tells me to do so, but am I observing these commandments merely out of a sense of duty or because there are greater underlying reasons – to perfect my spiritual character or out of the “love for the beauty of the Best-Beloved”?
Fasting is the cause of awakening man. The heart becomes tender and the spirituality of man increases.
How has the Fast caused my heart to become tender and my spirituality to increase, as stated in the above passage?
I think I can safely say that this is achieved only through prayer and meditation, a hugely important aspect of observing the Fast. Baha’u’llah characterises obligatory prayer and fasting as “two wings to man’s life.” This simple analogy likens one’s life to a bird and the fast and obligatory prayer to the two wings of the bird. Just as the bird cannot fly without either wing, fasting and prayer are both crucial to our life.
This is produced by the fact that man’s thoughts will be confined to the commemoration of God, and through this awakening and stimulation surely ideal advancements follow…
It is our spiritual nature to seek and turn to our Creator. During the Fast, when we abstain from the material comforts that we have become so dependent on, these spiritual inclinations are reinvigorated and we find ourselves turning to this greater Being. It is then that we become susceptible to His ways and teachings, thus allowing for those “ideal advancements” which ‘Abdu’l-Baha makes reference to.
‘Abdu’l-Baha then goes on to say:
Fasting is of two kinds, material and spiritual. The material fasting is abstaining from food or drink, that is, from the appetites of the body. But spiritual, ideal fasting is this, that man abstain from selfish passions, from negligence and from satanic animal traits. Therefore, material fasting is a token of the spiritual fasting.
The physical fast we observe is a portal to the spiritual Fast. It is the tool enabling us to reach our spiritual perfection – the first step we need to make in order to cultivate our spiritual life to the very standards set before us.
If we step back and analyse the observance of the Fast, we can see that all the spiritual rewards associated with the Fast begin with a small act of sacrifice. Like all the other sacrifices we make out of love for God, this sacrifice involves forgoing a temporal material gain for a greater spiritual gain, eternal in nature.
What are your thoughts on sacrifice and how it relates to the observance of the Fast? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!