Religions have been telling people, “Fast and that will purify you.” If that is true, then the starving millions of the world will be the most pure people. Then don’t help them! Don’t make them impure! Let them starve and die; they are the most virtuous people in the world. But it has no relationship.
To destroy evil, all kinds of idiotic things have been suggested. They have to be idiotic because there is no evil in the first place, so whatever you suggest is going to be meaningless, irrelevant.
You need not torture yourself, because by torturing you cannot transform yourself. You need not stand on your head and do Yoga postures, distorting your body this way and that way. If you are preparing for a circus, that is another thing, but if all these Yoga practitioners reach heaven, then God must be surrounded by a continuous circus — all over paradise people are doing strange and distorting things.
Yoga cannot purify you. It may give you better health. I am in absolute support of Yoga as being part of gymnasiums, but not as part of temples. In the gymnasium it has a contribution to make. It can give you better health, longer life; it can prevent many possible diseases; it can cure many diseases that are already with you. But it cannot transform that which is not-good into good, because it cannot give you awareness.
Yoga does not believe in torturing the body, it is not a masochistic affair, but it believes in purifying it. And, sometimes, purifying it and torturing it may look alike. A distinction has to be made.
A man can fast and he may be only torturing himself.. He may just be against his own body...suicidal, masochistic. But then another man can fast and he may not be a torturer; he may not be a masochist and he may not be trying to destroy the body in any way. Rather, he may be trying to purify it...because in deep fasting, the body attains certain purities.
You continuously go on eating every day; you never give any holiday to the body. The body goes on accumulating many dead cells — they become a load. Not only are they a load and a burden, they are toxins; they are poisonous. They make the body impure. When the body is impure you cannot see the hidden body behind it. This body needs to be clean, transparent, pure; then suddenly you become aware of the second layer, the subtle body. When the subtle body is pure then you become aware of the third body, and the fourth, and so on.
Fasting helps tremendously but one needs to be very aware that one is not destroying the body. No condemnation should be in the mind; and there is the problem because almost all religions have condemned the body. Their original founders were not condemners; they were not poisoners. They loved their bodies. They loved the body so much that they always tried to purify it. Their fasting was a purification.
Then came blind followers, unaware of the deep science of fasting. They started fasting, blindly. They enjoyed it because the mind is violent. It enjoys being violent with others. It enjoys a power...because whenever you are violent with others you feel powerful. But to be violent with others is risky because the other will retaliate. Then there is a simple way: to be violent with your own body. Then there is no risk. The body cannot retaliate, the body cannot harm you. You can go on harming your own body; there is nobody to react. This is simple. You can torture and enjoy power — that now you control your body; the body doesn’t control you.
If this fasting is aggressive, violent, if there is anger and destructiveness; then you miss the point. You are not purifying the body; you are in fact destroying it. To clean a mirror is one thing and to destroy the mirror is another. To clean the mirror is totally different, because when the mirror is clean of all dust, pure, you will be able to look into it; it will reflect you. But if you destroy the mirror, then there is no possibility to look into it. If you destroy the gross body you lose all possibility of contact with the second, the subtle body. Purify it, but don’t be destructive.
How does fasting purify? Whenever you are on a fast the body has no more work of digestion. In that period the body can work in throwing out dead cells, toxins. It is just as one day, Sunday or Saturday, you are on a holiday and you come home and you clean the whole day. The whole week you were so engaged and so busy you couldn’t clean the house. When the body has nothing to digest, you have not eaten anything, the body starts a self cleaning. A process starts spontaneously and the body starts throwing out all that is not needed, which is like a load. Fasting is a method of purification. Once in a while, a fast is beautiful — not doing anything, not eating, just resting. Take as much liquid as possible and just rest, and the body will be cleaned.
Sometimes, if you feel that a longer fast is needed, you can do a longer fast also — but be deep in love with the body. If you feel the fast is harming the body in any way, stop it. If the fast is helping the body, you will feel more energetic; you will feel more alive; you will feel rejuvenated, vitalized. This should be the criterion: if you start feeling that you are getting weaker, if you start feeling that a subtle trembling is coming into the body, then be aware; now the thing is no longer a purification. It has become destructive. Stop it.
But one should learn the whole science of it. In fact one should do fasting near somebody who has been fasting for long and who knows the whole path very well, who knows all the symptoms: if it becomes destructive what will start happening; if it is not destructive then what will happen. After a real, purifying fast you will feel new, younger, cleaner, weightless, happier; and the body will be functioning better because now it is unloaded.
But fasting comes only if you have been eating wrongly. If you have not been eating wrongly there is no need for fasting. Fasting is needed only when you have already done the wrong with the body — and we all have been eating wrongly.
Man has lost the path. No animal eats like man; every animal has its chosen food. If you bring buffaloes in the garden and leave them, they will eat only a particular grass. They will not go on eating everything and anything; they are very choosey. They have a certain feeling about their food. Man is completely lost, has no feeling about his food. He goes on eating everything and anything. In fact you cannot find anything which is not eaten somewhere or other by man. In some places, ants are eaten. In some places, snakes are eaten. In some places, dogs are eaten. Man has eaten everything.
Man is simply mad. He does not know what is in resonance with his body and what is not. He is completely confused.
Osho, The Essence of Yoga, Talk #5