Why I fasted for my birthday

Why I fasted for my birthday

This 12 months I used to be thirty-eight years previous

April 14 was my thirty-eighth birthday. As I method mid-life, I don’t have the identical appreciation for birthday events. In all honesty, I’ve by no means participated in birthday events. So once I informed my spouse that I needed to make a compassionate retreat, it was another day within the Minguez dwelling.

In recent times, I’ve participated in fasting retreats, however on a a lot smaller scale. This 12 months, fasting was going to be totally different for 2 causes. One of the vital necessary distinctions can be sleeping in a tent in the course of nowhere. "You'd higher not be eaten by a bear," joked my spouse earlier than I left.

The opposite distinction – this 12 months, whereas fasting, I stayed in a Buddhist temple with restricted entry to the mobile phone. Let's hope the bear stays away!

Celebration of Enlightenment

Within the Buddhist custom to which I belong, April 15 marks the birthday of Buddha Shakyamuni manifesting enlightenment in 589 BC. To say that April 15th is a necessary date of the Buddhist calendar can be probably the most vital underestimate of the 12 months. For context and comparability, this date can be like Easter on the Christian calendar.

On this specific day, our actions are 100,000 occasions extra highly effective than every other day. For that reason, we pay particular consideration to our actions of physique, speech and spirit.

It’s due to the character of today that we interact in a purification apply known as Nyungne (pronounced Nung-nay). Nyungne is a apply related to the Buddha of Compassion. You probably have already heard the OM MANI PADME HUM mantra, then the Buddha of Compassion.

A (very) temporary rationalization of Buddhist compassion

Compassion in Buddhism is a particular kind of kindness motivated by the need to free all dwelling beings from struggling. It doesn’t matter if this being is white, black, homosexual, an animal or an insect, wealthy or poor, we work to deliver the happiness of all males, in the identical method.

Typically, our compassion is combined with different intentions that make us suppose solely of ourselves. (I'm responsible of that too). That is nowhere extra evident than once we observe all of the sufferings of his world.

The opposite purpose why compassion in Buddhism is so extraordinary goes again to this motivation. When we now have compassion in our hearts, we don’t really feel overwhelmed or depressed by struggling, however we’re moved to make a distinction!

I'm leaving for the temple

The World Peace Temple is situated within the state of New York about two hours from New York Metropolis. Situated on 80 acres of woodland, you’ll not discover entry to the skin world within the type of an web connection or a mobile phone. I used to be anxious to chop this wire.

There are dormitories on the bottom, however I selected to put in and sleep in a tent. Sleeping in a tent additionally meant restricted entry to a rest room and operating water. The bathroom block incorporates bathrooms and sinks however no bathe.

I arrived Friday afternoon to arrange my tent and set up for the lengthy weekend. The retreat would final till Monday night. This system would come with a Friday night time convention, then Saturday can be a meditation retreat day, whereas Sunday and Monday can be Nyungne days.

The Awakening of the Coronary heart

On Friday and Saturday, Normal Samten, a temple resident trainer, gave particular teachings on the awakening of the guts. These particular directions included the apply of taking and giving. Taking and giving is a meditation the place we think about assuming the struggling of others after which giving them pure happiness.

Returning to Buddhist compassion, we use empathy to joyfully face the struggling of others. For instance, we might think about absolutely assuming the struggling of all beings affected by melancholy and bringing this struggling into our hearts the place it destroys our self-cherishing.

As soon as we diminish our self-cherishing, we are able to transfer on to the subsequent apply. On this subsequent step, we think about giving to all beings affected by melancholy our state of current and future happiness. No obligation, we give freely.


After we stay in our hearts, remembering that the happiness of others is important, we are able to begin with Nyungne. As we apply purification and it turns into tough, we keep in mind all of the struggling on this planet and the way we wish others to learn from it.

Sunday was the primary day of Nyungne and it started at 6:30 within the morning by taking the precepts. Precepts are a promise we make to ourselves. They embody retaining the vows for 24 hours, not consuming after lunch, not mendacity, not killing, and so on.

Nyungne consists of praying, meditating and prostrating. In the course of the course of, you recite the OM MANI PADME HUM mantra and interact in about forty minutes of full prostration. Full prostrations imply that you just start to face up and end up flat on the ground, legs and arms aside.

Monday's schedule can be repeated. Begin at 6:30 with the precepts after which three periods of Nyungne. The one distinction on Monday was that everybody was collaborating in a whole dry quick, which meant no water or meals all day. It’s at this stage that the apply turns into attention-grabbing.

Joyous Struggling

Earlier than understanding what it was love to do full prostrations with out meals or water in my system, I’ve to type out the issue that I had with my tent. All weekend, it rained and my tent was fully soggy. It was not moist from prime to backside, however from backside to prime. The soil was saturated with water.

Furthermore, since I used to be tenting, I didn’t have entry to a bathe. I might brush my enamel and wash my face in the bathroom block, however there can be no lengthy scorching showers.

The mix of chilly and humidity, starvation and sores, and the shortcoming to achieve out and talk with others made the compassion fasting extra significant.

Sure, Sunday night time, I used to be going by way of a tough time. Monday morning, I had ache. Nonetheless, on the second session of Monday, my angle started to vary and I remembered that I had promised to joyfully assume the struggling of others. I promised to launch all dwelling beings from their ache and provides them happiness. This little ache that I felt was nothing in contrast to what’s taking place day by day on this planet.

Self-cherishing spirit

The self-maintaining spirit is a fragile son of a bitch. It's one thing we at all times have with us, even once we suppose we’re a form and compassionate particular person; it’s seemingly that we’re nonetheless working with just a little self-cherishing.

For instance, we might have an appointment with a good friend, then our good friend might get sick. Our good friend tells us that they may need to cancel. We begin to want our good friend higher, however not as a result of we care about his well being, we simply wish to spend time with our good friend. It's so little, however these small gestures of self-concern add to extra severe issues.

If you wish to come into contact with a spirit of self-righteousness, attempt to do forty minutes of prostrations with out meals or water in your system 3 times a day. The self-haunting spirit shall be recognized shortly sufficient and you’ll higher perceive the affect of this spirit in your day by day actions.

Initially of the Nyungne periods, I used to be at all times considering of having a shower and having a cup of espresso. This attachment has created a ache in my physique. On the finish of the Nyungne periods, I used to be considering of all of the individuals on this planet who actually don’t have entry to protected water and to all those that are ravenous. This ache that I felt was nothing.


On the finish of the retreat, I felt totally different. After I got here dwelling with the radio, the world round me appeared to shine. I additionally appeared to be shifting slower and I used to be extra methodical with my ideas. For the primary time in a very long time, I felt calm and relaxed.

I keep in mind entering into the driveway of my home and being excited to see my children figuring out that they have been sleeping safely of their mattress. After saying good night time and placing everybody inside, I entered my room and collapsed on the mattress.

The subsequent morning, I discovered myself within the kitchen prepared to interrupt my quick. I opted for a banana. I took a chunk within the fruit and began crying. Instantly, I used to be overwhelmed by the unimaginable blessings that I’ve in my life.

In America, how typically do we are saying that there’s nothing to eat in our houses when our fridges and cabinets are filled with meals. How typically will we cease and luxuriate in our houses and the way do they supply a protected setting for our households to guard us from the weather? Even having the ability to get a glass of contemporary water is wonderful. All of us have a lot to get pleasure from in our lives.

Envy of affection

How fantastic it will be if all dwelling beings might fulfill their wants and never endure anymore! After collaborating within the fasting compassionate retreat, I’m extraordinarily aware of my setting and of what’s near my coronary heart, having fun with all of the blessings I really feel.

Most significantly, my coronary heart has woken up and I’m now aware of the struggling that’s taking place day by day round me. I could make a distinction and put an finish to this struggling, and that’s exactly what I intend to do, and that’s the reason I fasted on my birthday.

This text has already been revealed and is republished right here with the permission of the writer.

Photograph credit score: Istockphoto.com

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