Paul Brunton

Volume 4 of the Notebooks (Part 2) titled “The Body” contains information on the body, diet, fasting, exercise, breathing practices, sex and gender, kundalini, and postures for prayer.  Fasting is a practice that PB strongly recommends which he himself used often and these quotes are excerpted from this section.

Under the heading of temporary asceticism, the philosophic discipline includes fasting. If done at the right time and for the proper time, it is a mild but useful help to weaken animal desires, curb sex and soften anger, subdue an excessively critical intellect, remove resentment, and bestow serenity. In this way it is also of worth in clearing the mind when in doubt about a correct decision…

Fasting is both a penance and a purification, both a source of strength and a method of discipline.

The more anyone has practised overindulgence of their senses, the more they need to undertake the discipline of fasting. In renouncing food and drink, one renounces all the sense-activities which follow after their use.

There are times when there is nothing that can be said or written by another that would be useful in helping to lead them out of their apparent spiritual stagnation. It may be something in the way of living or what one eats or drinks which is contributing to the stagnation. If so, there is nothing equal to a few short twenty-four or thirty-six hour fasts to discover what it is, for then the true instincts of the body begin to be restored.

The practice of rigid self-denial helps to bring the lower nature under control. The fast is the severest reasonable form which this practice can take.

A person arrives more quickly at their own natural instincts and true desires after fasting. With every fast they shed some part of the artificial and false ones which habit, heredity, society, suggestion, and ignorance have imposed upon them.

My twenty-day fast had three interesting consequences apart from the body cleansing which prolonged fasts produce: first, a clearness of thought which was almost intuitive in its correctness; second, an immediacy of understanding which penetrated swiftly the deepest significance of a situation or experience; third, a heightened fluency in the use of words as instruments of expression.

If it cleanses the body of accumulated poisons, fasting also cleanses the mind of accumulated errors. This it does by opening a way into the mind for new ideas and preparing it to receive truer ones less resistantly. Thus the fast moves a person away from where they are is standing in their own light. It is a negative method of achieving positive results.

Note: At the end of the section of the Notebooks on fasting, is a long essay by PB with specific advice on how to fast (


Continuing with excerpts from Volume 4 of the Notebooks (Part 2) titled “The Body” on fasting.

When the supply of food to the body is stopped, and the experiment of fasting is begun, several of the physiological functions will have a chance to rest. The energies which would have been expended on their operations are then set free to cleanse the organs concerned.

The cleansing effects of a fast follow only after the disturbing effects. For when the waste matter and excess mucous is stirred up (so that they can be carried away and thrown away), there results unpleasant physical symptoms and unhappy mental ones. But all this vanishes within two or three days in the case of long fasts, or certainly as soon as eating is resumed in the case of short ones.

Everyone, except the persons whose physical constitution unfits them for it, should mark their entry upon the path of purification by a short fast. If someone has never fasted before, it may be a modified fast during which they abstain from all solid food but take well-diluted fruit or vegetable juices. Two to four days is sufficiently long for this purpose. Otherwise the best time to fast is at the opening of the seasons of spring and summer. Spring marks the beginning of the ancient new year, the real new year, around March 21. The more an aspirant purifies him or herself by using this simple method of physical fasting, the more will they be able to obtain a corresponding mental purification. After the first year or two, they will find it possible to go on to a fuller fast, during which nothing but water should be taken.

The factors which must determine the length of a fast are: the person's surrounding circumstances and physical strength, how much willpower they have, and what it is that one wishes to achieve or cure by the fast.

PB also recommends a raw-food diet as a form of fasting:

The purifying process of an unfired diet works in the same way as that of a long fast. It does not make a single effort with a single result but rather a series of efforts with a series of results. Hence the distressing elimination symptoms are periodic and recurring, being successive and deepening stages of cleansing.


Continuing with excerpts from Volume 4 of the Notebooks (Part 2) titled “The Body” on fasting.

Pythagoras required candidates to undergo a forty-day fast before he initiated them into his secret teachings. He said only so could their brains be sufficiently purified to understand such deep doctrine…

A partial liquid fast on vegetable water or fruit juice or lemonade is easier than an absolute one, while a restricted diet is easier than a partial fast.

It is not only the presence of excessive waste solids in the body that calls for purification but also the presence of excessive slimy mucous. It usually passes out after a fast, which shrivels the body and thus contracts the tissues until the mucous is forced out of its lodging places. The process is helped by drinking warm water with one-half teaspoon of lemon or lime juice and one-half teaspoon of honey in it. This loosens and thins the slime.

So much of this noxious material is eliminated through the skin that three processes of cleansing are needed to counteract it. First, the warm bath. Many persons are not tough enough to stand the weakening effects of a too hot bath. It is better to be prudent and be satisfied with a moderately warm one. Second, the friction rub. Third, the frequent change of underclothing. It is a physiological fact that a part of this material can be re-absorbed into the body if these processes are neglected. When that happens, this rancid and poisonous stuff will open the way to disease.

The friction rub may be done with a small coarse rough face cloth or with a loofah sponge. The entire body should be vigorously scrubbed, but especially the feet. A cool (not cold) shower at the end will close the pores and stimulate circulation.

Among the Ojibwa Indians of North America there existed formerly an esoteric group of shamans who alone refused to become converted to the missionary type of Christianity. They studied the higher teachings of spiritual existence, which were reserved strictly to themselves. The ceremony of initiating a new member was preceded by sweat baths.

Artificial and synthetic materials are preferably not to be worn next to the skin. Their use should be limited to outer and overgarments, which should be made, in that case, of mixed materials, so that nature's cotton or wool introduces its energies and less fatigue is induced.

For those who are considering a fast, this section of the Notebooks also contains advice from PB on how to conclude a fast and what to do during a fast.

The work of purifying the body cannot be done sufficiently by fasting alone, or by diet alone, or by postural exercises alone, or by any other physical means alone. Each may be important, one may be more important to one individual than the others, but it is a combination of two or several that is needed.