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Instead of fasting

December 7, 2013

Fasting is a very noble thing to do.  When one fast, one can reflect upon the poor and hungry who has not enough to eat.  Most of all, if one is from the super affluent family or country, one has the opportunity to shun over-eating.  But fasting is just one way to have compassion for the poor and the hungry.  There are lots of other things one can do and one does not have to be a Muslim or a strict Hindu or vegetarian to do so.  Start small and slowly go towards something bigger to touch the people around you.

Have you ever seen poor people who have no shoes too wear?  Or in a less serious case, families who were too poor to purchase a good Nike shoes for their growing child?  Give the gift of a pair of his/her favourite shoe and for yourself, purchase a humble no-brander or cheap (or even lousy) pair of shoes and live with it for as long as you can.  This is like exchanging shoes with a poor person.  As you live with the discomfort of that pair of shoes, understand and start to have feelings for that poor child who will be having this pair of shoes instead of the good pair that you donated.  Just donating alone, is too easy and lack empathy.  This way, quietly live through it and utter not a single complaint, then you have done similar or more than what a fasting person is doing.

Or do something simple like this:  Buy or cook the best meal for your family member but quietly eat the simplest of food like bread and peanut butter that meal.  When your family members are eating, smile and feel how happy they are eating the food you took so long and hard to prepare, but  when they are finished, do the dishes and eat your very simple meal.  Do not take that as a self-pity.  Do not get angry or think this is a punishment on yourself.  Do it and think about what the poor people or people in the middle of the ocean or mountain would be eating.  Do so with complete loving kindness.

Some people prefer volunteer picking up thrash with some non-profit organizations.  Some people prefer joining “shave your head for cancer” purpose.  These contributions are good enough.  But to go that extra mile, one needs to reach a level of “no leak”.  This is kind of like donating, but remaining anonymous.  So that the donor receive no glorification, or praise from anyone nearby.  The very gratification comes from the act of donating itself.  This concept is better explained in “Di Zang [Dot] org” on the concept of “有漏与无漏“(Got leak and No Leak).  Shen Yan Fa Shi, who once roamed Chinatown in NYC like a beggar for many years, explained that better as “有漏與無漏的功德“ (Click on the link to watch the Chinese video).

One pair of my shoes which I’ve been wearing for a few years cost me only $15.  A good reasonable pair should be about $50 to $90.  Depending on my true intention.  If my intention is to save money for myself, than it will not be a 功德.  But if I am trying to understand a boy whose family is not rich, then it has the same spiritual effect of fasting.  The thoughts change the cause of action.  But because I write about it in this blog, it cannot be considered 無漏的 (no leak).  The same with one of my dress pants which I bought for only $1.50 many (5-8) years ago.  I wore it often, until it was completely worn out and repaired many times.  (In fact most 出家比丘尼 or 在家居士 will try their very best not to even use the word “I” so as to achieve 無我的境界。)

So if your culture or your religion has no fasting, there are many wonderful things you can start doing.  Just don’t fast with the intention to lose weight and look prettier!

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