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Shrikant Soman
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Always Reinventing n Rediscovering Myself, Amazed at the Beauty and Bounty of Life !
Always Reinventing n Rediscovering Myself, Amazed at the Beauty and Bounty of Life !

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Spiritual Science of Upawas उपवास

Upwas is equated with Fasting. This is not correct. Upwas is a holy process of getting to the source. Etymologically it is composed of Up + Was उप + वस. To stay near (to self). It does not necessarily mean to stay near to any particular deity or God in general – though this is the most commonly understood meaning. As per its original meaning, Upwas can be done even by atheist and Buddhists. It is much more than mere ‘Fasting’. To explain it in simple but crude way, we can call it ‘Holy Fasting’. Therefore, in this note we will use the term Upwas and not Fasting.
It is a gross error to assume that doing Upwas earns you brownie points or credits in your पुण्य Punya Virtue Passbook. Your sins are posted in the debit side. When the net balance is above the ‘cut-off’ limit as decided by the Chitragupt (holy book keeper), a person becomes entitled to get admission in heaven. In this way, one can assume that he can live a life of debauchery so far as he does enough number of Upwas to have enough net credit balance above the cut-off limit. Problem is we can not verify this truth from the departed souls as one can go to heaven only after death. We don’t have any authentic rule book of heaven certified by God. The bigger problem is we do not know what is the exact system of this debit and credit in पुण्य (virtue) passbook. We only know it conceptually. How many exact credit points we earn by Upwas and debits by Sins? We have no clue at all. We cancel out this theory from our discussion as there are many flaws in it.
Another ‘fad’ with Hindu Lovers is to explain the Upwas with the support of material science. This fad is getting exaggerated of late on social media. Yes, certainly there is a substantial scientific research pointing out the benefit of eating less to long life (we will not get into that as it is of NO CONSEQUENCE to our present discussion). But certainly this was NOT in the minds of our ancient seers when they designed the system of Upwas. There is no need for explaining everything ancient ritual or practice with modern scientific evidence.
Another mumbo jumbo which has creeped into the present day Upwas system is about the ‘allowable’ and ‘non-allowable’ foods. It is all a big ERROR. Nowhere in our ancient scriptures these foods are mentioned. Take for example Peanuts. They simply could not have been included in our ancient scriptures because our seers at that time were completely ignorant of this food item. Peanuts originated in Bolivia. They are NOT native of Bharat. In same way potatos are from Southern Peru, Tomato in Central and South America, Tea from Southwest China – and all these are currently held in high esteem in our list of ‘allowable’ foods for Upwas.
Does it mean that the system of Upwas is all hoax ? Certainly not. Ancient Upwas system is a perfectly valid and extremely useful way for self realisation. We need to see it from the view point of Spiritual Science to rightly understand it and benefit from it.
Spiritual Science of Upwas
There are three major componants of any Upwas systems
1 Food
2 Lifestyle
3 Meditation

Let us examine them one by one.
1 Food
First of all, just FORGET about the current understanding of Upawas उपवास foods. We will break all rules, in that sense.
We need to understand the concept of सात्विक Saatvik food. It has two angles : Spiritual and Medicinal or as per Ayurveda आयुर्वेद.
Spiritually सात्विक Saatvik means the food dominated by Sattva Guna सत्व गुण. Spiritually we are composed of three Gunas or essences – Satva, Rajas and Tamas सत्व, राजस, तामस. All the three Gunas or essences are absolutely essential for our existence in this material world. They all have their own unique characteristics. We will discuss about it separately. In the current discussion, we will focus on सत्व गुण.

Sri Aurobindo explains the three Gunas as :
Each of the three gunas is a reflection or stepped-down version of a power of the higher existence. “Tamas तामस in the spiritual being becomes a divine calm, which is not an inertia and incapacity of action, but a perfect power, sakti शक्ती, holding in itself all its capacity and capable of controlling and subjecting to the law of calm even the most stupendous and enormous activity; Rajas राजस becomes a self-effecting initiating sheer Will of the spirit, which is not desire, endeavour, striving passion, but the same perfect power of being, sakti शक्ती, capable of an infinite, imperturbable and blissful action. Sattwa सत्व becomes not the modified mental light, prakasa प्रकाश, but the self-existent light of the divine being, jyotih ज्योती:, which is the soul of the perfect power of being and illumines in their unity the divine quietude and the divine will of action. The ordinary liberation gets the still divine light in the divine quietude, but the integral perfection will aim at this greater triune unity.”

Ayurvedic and Spiritual concepts converge. As per Ayurveda, Satvic foods essentially are milk, butter, cereals, fruits and vegetables. Only non spicy (or less spicy) vegetarian food should be tamen.
Quantity of Food : One should have around two third of the normal quantity of food. What is ‘normal’ will vary from person to person. No food should be taken after sunset. Only light food should be taken just before sunset – preferably only fruit and may be milk.

2 Lifestyle
During Upwasa उपवास one should not engage in hectic or strenuous activity, debates and heated arguments. One needs to maintain peaceful and calm composure. Getting up just before sunrise is essential. Taking bath in the morning and evening is also needed. Going to bed early – giving around 7 hours sound and peaceful sleep is recommended. Listening and watching electronic media and engaging in social media is a strict no no during Upwasa उपवास day. These are all simple things. One should not be having too much difficulty in observing them. But as they say, simplicity is the most difficult thing to obtain in today’s lifestyle.
There is no need to go to temple, do puja or listen to holy music or chant holy names. One can do them if one gets into peaceful zone with them easily. It is better NOT to do ANY OF THOSE activities.

3 Meditation
The main reason for taking care of the pre-requisite of point number one and two – Food and Lifestyle is to prepare a ground for having a good quality of meditation. Having less food helps in relieving the digestive system of digestion hard work. Anyway what we call our ‘normal’ food intake is far more than what is really needed by our physical body to maintain itself. Therefore by taking less food, we are not at a loss of nutrition in a real sense. Having Satvic food helps in the process of quieting the thought currents in our mind. This is absolutely essential pre-requisite of meditation. Having relaxed lifestyle on Upwas day helps in this direction. I have mentioned that chanting holy names better be avoided for this simple reason. We have to get away from both GOOD AND BAD thoughts. We have to get to the SOURCE which is beyond the concept of good and bad. Meditation is often a vastly mis-understood concept. The concept of pious or holy or religious are not same as meditation. Meditation is far beyond all these concepts. That is the reason earlier I have mentioned that belief in God is not critically needed for doing Upwas. Meditation means turning our gaze INWARDS. At all waking times our gaze is turned outward. During meditation, we need to turn our awareness INWARDS. We need to OBSERVE our various ‘clouds’ of thoughts in a neutral non-judgemental way without participating in it. The breathing has to be regularised, deep and slow. The scientific technique of Pranayam is NOT needed. Just simple regularised, INTENTIONAL and OBSERVED deep breathing process is good.

Does Upwas has to be done on the prescribed holy days ? Not at all necessary. One can do Upwas on any CONVENIENT day. Sunday is most suitable as it is a holiday.
The above is based on Spiritual Science as was originally intended and practiced by our ancient seers. It has a spiritually scientific basis. It should not be confused with any religious notions. The object of doing Upwas is certainly not for any holy credit points for Moksha or heaven after death. The objective is to have a BALANCED and PEACEFUL life full of ABUNDANCE HERE AND NOW on Earth.
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