That's the question I had asked Papu a long ago. I had gotten quite a satisfactory answer for myself and that's why I believed in it. After I found out that "jaya parvati vrat" is going on right now and today is Guru Purnima, I asked him again to remind myself of the answer. He said that fasting is done with the desire for a sacrifice or letting go of something. Something that we think we need on daily basis, but here we will make a compromise with ourselves and hopefully that will eventually lead us to achieve higher self-control.
Over the years I have realized that the fasting that results in more craving for our favorite kind of foods is not worth it. You'd rather not fast at all. It is when we are able to decide by choice that even though I can eat this, I choose not to eat it, it's truly worth it. That too shouldn't lead to any regrets or unhappiness of any kind. Sometimes I feel that us Gujaratis fast only to eat. There are so many items that one can eat while fasting it seems that people who fast actually end up eating more than when they aren't fasting. I am totally against that idea. Fasting is to reduce the intake of food, so that there is no distraction of having a full stomach and sleepiness, which eventually leads to clearer thinking and better concentration on things that matter to us - our reasons for fasting.
Taking a little detour from the topic of post here.
He also told me that it is not good to have conditions with God. e.g. manyta or manta, badha, (in Gujarati) etc. that people keep for themselves or others. If something they wish will happen, then they will do this for their God. That is not unconditional devotion. Of course, then like Kashmira asked, the question would be, why people do it? Human mind is a very strong thing. It can make things happen the way we wish and when we concentrate on something so hard and wish for it, doing something conditional for it only helps our minds feel more confident about achieving that goal. That's how these things work. Many a times, it happens so that our wish doesn't get fulfilled, in that case too our faith/belief just gets stronger that eventually we will be able to reach our goals, only that next time we need to try harder. At the end of the day, it is about faith, how much do we believe in it. And people believe in things for many personal reasons. Faith makes people do weird things too. I remember talking to KB about it a couple of days back. She said in India there are ladies who'd actually roam around wearing a white saari because somebody they liked a lot died in a serial(soap opera) that they watch daily. But is it worth it? I don't know that, but what I do know and believe is that it's not worth playing that kind of a game with God. In life, we get what we deserve and if we got something forcefully then it's possible we might not be able to live with that fact or even worse, we won't have that thing for too long. Our deeds (karma) are like a big pot of grains with that has a faucet-like opening at the bottom. What you put in on top over the time (including past births) eventually comes out at the bottom. That's why we sometimes see a good person who's never done anything bad to anyone also going through hardships and bad people having so much good in life. At least this is the belief I live by. What goes around, comes around.
There is a story of King Dhritarashtra. After the Mahabharat War was over, he once asked Shri Krishna: "You can see beyond this life, then tell me what is it that I did in the past that I am born blind in this birth and even though I had a hundred sons, they all have died?" He got to see his past births with the help of "divya-chakshu" and some 50 births back, he saw that he was a hunter and once he threw a burning net over some pigeons in a forest. A hundred of them died in that fire and this was the reason he had to suffer the pain of losing his hundred sons. He threw the burning net, so that act resulted in him being blind. His next question was, why did it take so long for him to actually experience the result of such a horrible act? The answer he got was because first of all, in order to experience the pain of losing a hundred sons, he’d have to earn the good karma to deserve a hundred sons. He did more good than he actually needed so he also ended up becoming a king along with having that many children.
Papu says this often: (he read it somewhere, but I can’t recall where) sut vitt deh daaraa yash apyash vidhi haath.
sut = son/children
vitt = money
deh = body
daaraa = wife/spouse
yash = fame
apyash = defame
vidhi = fate
haath = hands
It means how your children will turn out, the amount of money you will get, the kind of body you will have, the kind of wife/spouse you will have, and any fame or defame you will get in this birth are all decided by your fate for you.