So, from my earlier post you now know that I am observing the muslim fast during this month of Ramadan (until 30th of September). However, Muslims are not the only ones who have regular fasts, in fact some kind of abstention from food is prescribed in most religions – and gluttony, which would most accurately relate the Wests “everyday” relationship with food, is even a cardinal sin in Christianity.
Buddhists wouldn’t say they fast, however many buddhists monks actually eat only once per day – before noon. This is quite comparable to the muslim fast. The general stance of the Buddha, who tried (unsuccessfully) an almost complete fast in search for enlightenment, is to (as always) use the Middle Way as guidance and avoid eating excessively but also not starving yourself. From what I’ve read it seems spiritual Buddhist laymen and women often also observe the one meal per day during one or two days per week.
The major day of fasting in Judaism is Yom Kippur (October 9th this year) which encompasses a full 25 hour period without food or drink. Similar to why Islam practices Ramadan during the month Mohammed recieved the first parts of the Qur’an, so is Yom Kippur a mark of when Moses had recieved the second part of commandments from God.
For the full list of fasting, see this Beliefnet article.
The common thread in all fasting in religions seems to be that it is practiced in order to be able to completely focus on introspection, prayer/meditation and the higher being. By practicing self-restraint and keeping being in control of your actions you will enhance the skill that will allow you to abide by the many other rules that apply all year around.