BUENA PARK, CA - For 45 straight days, Ashok Savla lived without eating any solid food, only relying on the occasional glass of water. The fast ended this past Saturday, Aug.30 at the Jain Center of Southern California with fellow Jains who completed shorter fasts. Over 500 people packed the venue which began...
Believers of Jainism look to follow in the footsteps of the Arihants, supreme beings who have reached Nirvana. One aspect of this process is performing true penance, which can accelerate the soul’s journey to rediscover its underlying qualities. Fasting sheds the souls negative karmas, emphasizes the soul’s freedom from material existence, and allows realization of one’s spiritual self. The latter aspect was a key component for Savla, stating he “wanted to go within himself.”
Savla’s sacrifice inspired a handful of others to participate in the journey themselves. Close to 50 people fasted for eight days straight and celebrated with Savla, including an 11-year-old girl. Although it was an amazing feat, Savla admits this was not his first time fasting. He has been performing the ritual for 30 years, yet he has never been able to accomplish the full 45 days until this year. In fact, he even took the last two weeks off from work to properly cleanse himself and foster a deeper connection with his body. “My days began with a one hour prayer every morning and ended with an evening meditation session,” he said. This ritual helped Savla become more close to himself. It also helped him control various emotional symptoms such as anger. “The first three days are key. Rest came easy to me and I felt a sense of calm thereafter” he said.
Nonviolence, multiplicity of view, and non-possessiveness are the cardinal principles of Jainism. Importantly, true Jain fasting should be undertaken within one’s physical limits. Savla was quick to point out that “it is not a physical punishment, but instead is used to reach a higher spiritual plain.” Jains are encouraged to continue progressing on their own spiritual journey year round. Therefore, Savla and fellow Jainists will continue fasting at various periods of their lives.
Savla dedicated his milestone to his late mother who passed away last December.