Q: How does fasting aid in one's sadhana?
A: The first direct benefit of fasting is on the health of an individual. Fasting facilitates in the reduction of laziness and lethargy. For example, one does not feel sleepy when one refrains from eating at night. Fasting not only affects the body but the mind as well. The mind is able to focus without much effort. One can say that fasting assists the mind to concentrate thereby serving as an invaluable aid in one's spiritual practices.
Q: Can one take fruits during fasting?
A: It is best to perform a fast by taking only water or milk, but those who are unable to fast in this way can take fruits. However, fruits should be taken only once and in limited quantities. The amount of fruit one eats should be limited as not to create a sense of heaviness in the body. Normally, most people take fruits in large quantities while fasting thereby defeating the very purpose for which it is performed. Such fasts, performed merely for the sake of fasting become ineffective and do not aid in one's spiritual progress.
Q: Can you throw some more light on the subject of fasting?
A: Those who fast should give utmost attention towards the purity of mind and in making their mind pure and virtuous. While fasting, they should follow certain disciplines such as avoiding any wrong deeds - one should not lie, one should not become angry nor betray anyone. One should not hurt anyone's feeling in any way by his conduct or do injustice to anybody.
Thereafter a person should try to follow all of the above on the days on which he is not observing a fast. Their life will thus become pure and they will progress rapidly on the path of spirituality. If fasting is performed in this manner then it will have spiritual value otherwise it will just become a traditional or custom and will not be of much use in an individual's spiritual progress.
Q: Why can’t we behold God?
A: Many people ask me this question and I have elaborated on it so many times. Anyhow, I will repeat it once again.
The most essential component, the unquenchable thirst for the manifestation of God has not arisen in you and that is the reason you are unable to have the vision of God. One can definitely manifest the eternal power which sustains this universe if such a thirst awakens within one's self; if one prays earnestly and cries wholeheartedly. But where is such longing? Most people in the world are preoccupied chasing worldly gratifications. Their hearts are filled with lust and desires for material pleasures. One has to purify his heart and then invite God in with utmost love and devotion.
Who has lost peace of mind and sleep in pursuit of God? Worldly duties make a person worried; even in their dreams people visualize worldly scenes. Has it ever happened to you that you could not sleep because God would not appear before you? The ardent lover of God cannot sleep peacefully; he cannot eat properly for days together without the vision of God. Has that ever occurred to you? Have you ever become mad in yearning for God?
When a close relative passes away, people cry, they lose their appetite and even feel like ending their own life! Have you ever cried for God? Has a single tear dropped from your eyes in longing for His manifestation? Have you ever lost your appetite or thought of ending your life just because you did not have the vision of God? Have you ever felt that your life is useless until and unless God appears before you?
We feel pleasure in material things and never sincerely attempt to have the vision of God. Infants cannot sleep at night without food; they cry and wake their mother so she will feed them. Have you ever had such a state of mind?
In 1945 when I went to Dakshineshwar, I cried impatiently for hours like a small child while sitting in Ramakrishna Dev's room. The temple priests assembled, as they had never come across a person like me. There was a unique joy in crying for God. A single drop of tear has the power to indebt God to the devotee. We should ask ourselves: 'Do we have in us a divine love like the Great Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Meerabai, Tukaram or Tulsidas?'
In reply to your question, I would say that an unquenchable thirst and infinite love for the Divine is required in order to have His vision. The day such emotions will manifest within your self, God will not be able to stay away from you.