One of the answers to this question 'Is there a tradition or practice involving fasting in Buddhism or Buddhist countries?' says that fasting is followed by Tibetan Buddhists.

Why is fasting allowed since it is as extreme as gluttony and not a middle way? If I am right, following the path of the śramaṇic and yogic systems which existed at the time of Gautama Buddha, he subjected his body to extremes such as fasting and then realized that such extremes do not help in his enlightenment.

Has the Buddha prohibited fasting in any of his teachings?

  • The extreme in the fasting of the Buddha was its extreme fasting not that fasting at its own. Of course it is a training for the emancipation of the will from the dominance of bodily greeds. The orientation of the Bhikkhu-sangha on begging for alms instead of gardening and producing own food even implies, that even occasional "in-volutorily" fastening should be beared with patience and metta. The great disciple Mahakassapa was famous for his frequent separate living in solitude. I think it is connected with fastening, but likely not worth a big story because being a simple samanic practice Jun 12, 2016 at 8:55

3 Answers 3


There are a lot of scientifically proven benefits of fasting for short periods of time.

Within the earliest form of Buddhism, fasting after noon is recommended way of life.

This means they would get done with the "taking care of the body" part of their life out of the way early and can devote the most time to what is truly important: spiritual cultivation.

This is a fast of 16 hours. On the other hand, very long fasts that are weeks long is not the Middle Way and Buddha recommended against that.

Eating 3 meals a day is actually falling further on the opposite spectrum: eating too much, so be wary.


Lay Buddhists observe the Full-moon day as a day of fasting when meals are not taken after mid day. On that day they abstain from sensual pleasures and the use of high and luxurious seats and beds. Time is spent on the practice of the Dhamma. This has to be developed as an inner strength.

Fasting alone does not lead to purification. The bhikkhus too fast daily between midday and the following dawn. But this is not called fasting. For some people when meditating fasting may work well, but for others it works just the opposite — the more they fast, the stronger their defilements get. It's not the case that when you starve the body you starve the defilements, because defilements don't come from the body. They come from the mind

There is the Dhammapada verse (with regards to ascetic Jambuka) in the scriptures that says that realization is far superior to mere fasting. It’s English translation is :

“Month after month a fool may eat only as much food as can be picked up on the tip of a kusa grass blade, but he is not worth a sixteenth part of those who have comprehended the Truth.”

But other ascetics at Buddha’s time did so. But it is said the prolonged, so-called meritorius fasting of other ascetics who have not destroyed the passions, is not worth the sixteenth part of a solitary day's fasting of an Ariya who has realized the four Noble Truths. There’s another Dhammapada verse (with regards to ascetic Bahu Bhandika) that says, that external penances such as fasting cannot purify a person.


I read fasting is done when dying, since eating food can cause pain to the body & disturb the mind.

I'd like to relate to you an account I once came across of the way that people in the time of the Buddha prepared for death. For those who kept the Precepts of Virtuous Conduct fasting was not at all difficult because they were used to abstaining from an evening meal on Uposatha days. When their illness reached the point that they felt that they had no more than ten days left to live they would stop eating.... Their efforts to avoid food were for the purpose of having a mind completely undisturbed. When the body starts to run down it loses its ability to digest food and so anything consumed turns to poison, making the mind restless and confused.

So they prepared themselves for death by abstaining from food and taking only water or medicine. As death got closer, they would stop taking even water or medicine in order to focus their mindfulness and self-awareness, so as to die in the way of remainderless extinction.


  • 1
    This sounds like (or "is also, more or less") a Jain practice, Sallekhana. And that (turning away from or abstaining from food) is done by other people (e.g. Westerners) who are dying.
    – ChrisW
    Jun 12, 2016 at 12:30
  • In this day and age when instead of the Suttas themselves, many prefer to study other books or listen to others' teachings, which may be inconsistent with the Sutta-Vinaya, we have to be careful when accepting a claim as true. I think that this monk Buddhadasa has erroneously stated fasting was a part and parcel of the life at the time of a death. So this is my first down vote. Has he substantiated by siting the scriptures? If not the resulting damage is two-fold: The Suttas will disappear, and People will gain wrong understanding of the Dhamma. Jun 13, 2016 at 4:17
  • In the time of the Gautama Supreme Buddha, there were other teachers like Ajita Kēsakambīla, Nighanta Nāthaputta, Sanjaya bellatti Putta, Makkali Gōsala, Pakuda Kaccāyana, and so on, with various types of views/concepts. If what @ChrisW says is true, Is it wise to bring up the views of these other teachers and the customs of their followers into our discussion? Jun 13, 2016 at 4:32

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