Just about the time when
I gave up milk and cereals, and started on the experiment of a fruit diet,
I began fasting as a means of self-restraint. In this Mr. Kallenbach also
joined me. I had been used to fasting now and again, but for purely health
reasons. That fasting was necessary for self-restraint, I learnt from a
Having been born in a Vaishnava
family and of a mother who was given to keeping all sorts of hard vows,
I had observed, while in India, the Ekadashi and other fasts, but
in doing so I had merely copied my mother and sought to please my parents.
At that time I did not understand,
nor did I believe in, the efficacy of fasting. But seeing that the friend
I have mentioned was observing it with benefit, and with the hope of supporting
the brahmacharya vow, I followed his example and began keeping the
fast. As a rule Hindus allow themselves milk and fruit on a fasting day,
but such fast I had been keeping daily. So now I began complete fasting,
allowing myself only water.
When I started on this experiment,
the Hindu month of Shravan and the Islamic month of Ramzan happened to
coincide. The Gandhis used to observe not only the Vaishnava but also the
Shaivite vows, and visited the Shaivite as also the Vaishnava temples.
Some of the members of the family used to observe pradosha/1/
in the whole of the month of Shravan. I decided to do likewise.
These important experiments
were undertaken while we were at Tolstoy Farm, where Mr. Kallenbach and
I were staying with a few Satyagrahi families, including young people and
children. For these last we had a school. Among them were four or five
Musalmans. I always helped and encouraged them in keeping all their religious
observances. I took care to see that they offered their daily namaz.
There were Christians and Parsi youngsters too, whom I considered it my
duty to encourage to follow their respective religious observances.
During this month, therefore,
I persuaded the Musalman youngsters to observe the Ramzan fast. I had of
course decided to observe pradosha myself, but I now asked the Hindu,
Parsi, and Christian youngsters to join me. I explained to them that it
was always a good thing to join with others in any matter of self-denial.
Many of the Farm inmates welcomed my proposal. The Hindu and the Parsi
youngsters did not copy the Musalman ones in every detail; it was not necessary.
The Musalman youngsters had to wait for their breakfast until sunset, whereas
the others did not do so, and were thus able to prepare delicacies for
the Musalman friends and serve them. Nor had the Hindu and other youngsters
to keep the Musalmans company when they had their last meal before sunrise
next morning, and of course all except the Musalmans allowed themselves
The result of these experiments
was that all were convinced of the value of fasting, and a splendid esprit
de corps grew up among them.
We were all vegetarians on Tolstoy
Farm, thanks, I must gratefully confess, to the readiness of all to respect
my feelings. The Musalman youngsters must have missed their meat during
Ramzan, but none of them ever let me know that they did so. They delighted
in and relished the vegetarian diet, and the Hindu youngsters often prepared
vegetarian delicacies for them, in keeping with the simplicity of the Farm.
I have purposely digressed in
the midst of this chapter on fasting, as I could not have given these pleasant
reminiscences anywhere else, and I have indirectly described a characteristic
of mine, namely that I have always loved to have my co-workers with me
in anything that has appealed to me as being good. They were quite new
to fasting, but thanks to the pradosha and Ramzan fasts, it was
easy for me to interest them in fasting as a means of self-restraint.
Thus an atmosphere of self-restraint
naturally sprang up on the Farm. All the Farm inmates now began to join
us in keeping partial and complete fasts, which, I am sure, was entirely
to the good. I cannot definitely say how far this self-denial touched their
hearts and helped them in their striving to conquer the flesh. For my part,
however, I am convinced that I greatly benefited by it both physically
and morally. But I know that it does not necessarily follow that fasting
and similar disciplines would have the same effect for all.
Fasting can help to curb animal
passion, only if it is undertaken with a view to self-restraint. Some of
my friends have actually found their animal passion and palate stimulated
as an after-effect of fasts. That is to say, fasting is futile unless it
is accompanied by an incessant longing for self-restraint. The famous verse
from the second chapter of the Bhagavadgita is worth nothing in
'For a man who is fasting his senses
Fasting and similar discipline
is, therefore, one of the means to the end of self-restraint, but it is
not all, and if physical fasting is not accompanied by mental fasting,
it is bound to end in hypocrisy and disaster.
Outwardly, the sense-objects disappear,
Leaving the yearning behind; but when
He has seen the Highest,
Even the yearning disappears.'
= = = = = = = = = = =
Fasting until evening.