All Religious Practices
are Vehicles to Purification
and Spiritual Growth

The Egyptian Society for Spiritual and Cultural Research

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Experiencing
the Divine from within

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The idea of experiencing oneself as a spirit through the deprivation of physical needs, is the goal of some disciplines of austerity in some Revelations and of fasting in the prophetic revelations. Feeling himself as a spirit is a very significant experience for man'sglossary purification.

Communicating with the divine within when stopping all physical desires is a mean for man to experience real life and it increases his potentials of receiving spiritual power from the Origin of all Life.glossary

That is true for The beliefs of The Ancient Egyptians, Taoism,  Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and  Islam.


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The Ancient Egyptians: It is very clear in the beliefs of the Ancient Egyptians that spiritual evolvement is the goal of life. The inner life, which is reflected in the presence of conscience, takes prime concern. Priests of ancient Egypt abstained from meat and wine in order to receive and interpret divine revelations (Macmillan Information Encyclopedia of Religion: 225).


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Taoism: Because spirit is the essence of human beings, it should be given the chance to direct our life. As such man can lead a harmonious, fruitful life. Awakening the spiritual power requires training. There are no specific exercises for such training in Taoism, but the recommendation is that man should understand the law, Tao. If he does, he can control his desires, not by mere deprivation, but through the knowledge that spiritual cultivation is the most precious thing human beings can achieve. Spiritual refinement is the "divine golden medicine". "Through the process of spiritual cultivation, one refines oneself, disposing of the sand and retaining the gold. One then has the necessary material for refining the 'divine immortal medicine' "(Hua Ching Ni 1997:43).  "Fasting of the heart", rather than bodily fasting is the path to arriving at Tao (Macmillan Information Encyclopedia of Religion: 225).


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In Hinduism, experiencing the divine from within, with the aim of physical and spiritual purification, happens through a number of special disciplines such as observing silence, controlling the diet, or maintaining complete fast. The aim of all disciplines is "to let the spirit take possession of our whole being" (S. RadhaKrishnan, The Bhagavad Gita: p. 193).

In Hinduism control of the appetite is very important. "..., indulging in food and gaining the nearness of God, are not compatible. Therefore, right from the beginning you must make a determined effort to keep the tongue under control. Once you gain mastery over the tongue, the other sense organs will automatically come under control (Sai Baba Gita: 7:p. 1). Complete purification is realized by putting the life of the spirit over any other likes or dislikes of the "tongue. "Only by sacrificing your likes and dislikes can you obtain equal mindedness. Only by sacrificing your bad qualities can you attain the noble qualities. Only by giving up your bad thoughts, bad habits and bad behavior can you possibly achieve good thoughts, good habits and good behavior."
(Sai Baba Gita: 7:p.2)
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Silence is also recommended in the Gita, as one way of stopping the influence of the physical desires and emotions and giving chance to the divine within to unfold.

"….. speech has its own powerful impact on the mind and the entire mental process. It has a tremendous power. It can perplex your mind. It can break your heart. It can even kill you. It can also give life and encouragement and help you to reach your divine goal. " ( (Sai Baba Gita: 7:p.4 )


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In Buddhism, when man experiences the truth, he attains a purified status or the Buddha nature from within. He needs to tame all the desires of the physical existence to reach that goal. People are guided to "learn endurance; they should learn to endure the discomforts of heat and cold, hunger and thirst; they should learn to be patient when receiving abuse and scorn; for it is the practice of endurance that quenches the fire of worldly passions which is burning up their bodies" (TB: p. 230).

Buddha Teaching guides man also to austerity. To avoid desires arising from the stimulation of the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, skin, people "should have correct ideas with regard to the proper use of all things. That is with regard to food and clothing, they should not think of them in relation to comfort and pleasure, but only in the relation to body's needs. Clothing is necessary to protect the body against extremes of heat and cold, and to conceal the shame of the body; food is necessary for the nourishment of the body while it is training for Enlightenment and Buddhahood. Worldly passions cannot arise through such thinking." (TB: p. 230)

By austerity man stops two main primary sources of defilement: "ignorance" and "desire" which breed in man the wrong judgment and "wrong ideas". "If people are ignorant they cannot reason correctly and safely. As they yield for a desire of existence, grasping, clinging and attachments to everything inevitably follow. It is this constant hunger for every pleasant thing seen and heard that leads people into delusions of habit. Some people even yield to the desire for the death of the body." (TB: p. 160, 151) These two sources of defilement breed in man greed, anger and foolishness which hinder insight. Buddha's Teaching aims at giving man the chance to get spiritually transformed. When purified from "burning desires", the truth emerges from within.


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In the Holy Bible, Even though the disciplines of fasting were not given enough details in the Old and New Testaments, the fact that all prophets observed fasting inspired their followers with several systems of fasting. All of which share a focal idea: stopping all the physical desires for a certain period of time in order to activate spiritual powers within. This spiritual training purifies man and leads to rejuvenation of spiritual consciousness.

In the Old Testament, the "Day of Atonement" is the great annual purification of the Jewish people according to the Law of Moses. "It is the sole fast required by the law of Moses" (Lev:23:26-32). Nevertheless throughout the Holy Bible it is noticed that Israelite prophets and sometimes the whole nation felt the need to fast when they are in a major trouble. Through fasting, the divine part can find its way out of the density of the physical existence and man may witness a new spiritual birth; an assured vision of his truth as having the glimpse of divinity. Hence man may be qualified to attain divine attributes. In the Old Testament, Moses quotes the lord as telling his people

"For I am the LORD your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy" (Le:11:44).

In Jewish as well as in Christian traditions, people fast during certain times of the year following Moses and Jesus who passed through spiritual experiences through their fasting period.

The Old Testament tells about how everyone saw Moses as pure Divine Light at the end of forty days and nights without food or drink, In the Torah it is stated:

"And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses' hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him." "And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him." (Ex:34: 29,30)


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The New Testament shows the experience of Jesus. Again Jesus, the epitome of purity and divinity, also fasted.

"And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered." (M't:4:2)

After the forty days and nights of fasting, Jesus came down from the mount, to guide his people and his being purely Divine Light was manifest:

"The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up." (M't:4:16)

Jesus also said:

"Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (M't:5:48).

Moses and Jesus convey a message to humankind through their fasting. The message connotes that man is capable of experiencing himself as a spirit if he controls his earthly desires for certain period of time. He may get so pure that Heaven Grace comes to earth through him.


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In Islam, purification of the heart and experiencing the divinity from within are achieved trough fasting. A Prophetic Hadith reveals that if man fasts truly, the spiritual gain that he realizes is beyond any human estimation. He will be subject to the Grace of Allah with no known limits.
Prophet Muhammad says:

"He who fasts Ramadan, expressing his Faith and investing for the sake of God, his sin in the past and in the future will be forgiven"

The relationship that is drawn between fasting and Faith in God means that, fasting is a way to witness the Oneness of Allah by the insight. Through purification, a person who awakens his divinity is able to recognize divinity. This statement of the prophet reveals to what extent that fasting can be a purifying practices. If one fasts truly, one is be reliable to spiritual transformation that will enable him to go spiritually forward , that is how "his sin in the past and in the future will be forgiven".

Fasting, in Islamic Teaching, is practiced through one month each year in Ramadan. It starts by the intention and will of man to control the body's desires, that is in order to allow the divinity to express itself from within and to be available to God's Mercy. Fasting starts from the dawn and ends by the Sunset, that is, during the light time. During the time of fasting, man is available to absorb the Divine Light. Therefore fasting is not limited to abstain from food, but all man's senses should be purified, he should take care of words that comes out of his tongue, be careful not to put himself in a situation where he may hear bad words, or trifle talks. He should not let his eyes stare at others, and metaphorically he should not focus on others mistakes and sins. In one of the prophet's sayings:

One who, while fasting, neither guards his tongue from telling lies nor refrains from doing bad deeds does not respect his fast, while Allah does not approve of mere abstention from food...

The spiritual fruit of fasting is expressed symbolically through Lyelatu’l Kadr. It is the night where Koran was revealed to the Prophet. Before the revelation, the Prophet used to go to a cave called hara to spend the whole month of Ramadhan. He fasted and meditated. The Revelation of Koran was God's grace. Ramadan became the month of the spiritual training through fasting.

The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Koran , guidance for mankind, and clear proofs of the guidance, and the Evidence of Truth. And whosoever of you, perceive the presence of the Month, let him fast" (2:185)

Lyelatu’l Kadr transcends the great event of Koran Revelation, and becomes a symbol of God's bless for man. Those who fast truly make themselves available to Lyelatu’l Kadr "Lyelatu’l Kadr is better than a thousand month" (HQ: 97:3).


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Conclusion:

Fasting in all revelations is meant to awaken man's awareness to the divinity within his heart. Divinity is the flame that burns in the soul and mind.  Formless and untamed, it can transform man from his crude state to one that is pure and refined. Means, by which man can allow the divinity within to surface, vary across revelations.  In some revelations the will
to be spiritually purified is viewed as sufficient. Taoism is an example. In other revelations, practices, specifically fasting, are outlined as a way of allowing the divinity within to operate. In the beliefs of ancient Egyptians, fasting was restricted to priests. In Hinduism, remaining silent is part of the fasting process. In Judaism and Christianity, the focus is on the type of food that man eats. Fasting in Islam is well clarified, and organized and it includes not only abstaining from food, but also from any bad words or misbehavior. Fasting is a form of purification, which is more effective when complemented with practices that enable man to link himself to the supreme. In Ramadan, the month devoted to fasting, it is recommended that one prays more, and read Koran as much as one could. The process of purification does not end by the end of Ramadan.  It is a continuous training that is supposed to push man forward and transform him spiritually.