Baha'i fast "essentially a period of meditation and prayer"

26 February 2008

LOS ANGELES, United States — Baha'is around the world will arise for prayers before sunup on March 2 as they begin their yearly fasting period – "an annual renewal of faith," says Emerson Boergadine, a young photographer in Los Angeles.

"It's an invigoration, an annual cleansing," he said of the fast, which is a special time for prayer and also involves abstaining from food and drink between sunrise and sundown for 19 straight days. Members of the Baha'i Faith ages 15 to 70 observe the fast, which ends just before the Baha'i new year on March 21.

Mr. Boergadine, who is 28 and will be observing the fast for the 14th time, said it helps a person focus on their essential spiritual nature.

"While you are practicing detachment from the physical world, you are reminded of your attachment to the spiritual world," he said.

Shoghi Effendi, the head of the Baha'i Faith from 1921 until his passing in 1957, described the fast in this way: "It is essentially a period of meditation and prayer, of spiritual recuperation, during which the believer must strive to make the necessary readjustments in his inner life, and to refresh and reinvigorate the spiritual forces latent in his soul."

Lorenia De La Vega – a native of Mexico who grew up in the United States and is currently working in Spain as a translator – joined the Baha'i Faith last October and will be observing the fast for the first time.

"Everyone that I've spoken with says that the fast is one of the most incredible experiences you can have," said Ms. De La Vega, who is 25. "I am really looking forward to it. They say that it is an incredible time of personal growth. The phrase that I've heard everyone saying is you're cleansed of everything else except prayer and that your senses feel alive."

It is the focus on prayer that she particularly is looking forward to.

"Prayer is one of the most important things in my life," she said. "I used to think that it was just something to do to calm yourself down. But I've had amazing experiences with prayer ever since I became a Baha'i."