Why shouldn’t you do what you like ? Isn’t feeding the senses what life is all about ?
In fact no one can just do what they like. And no sense is safe when over fed. The Buddhist way was always about ‘RESTRAINT’.
A nice little article in The Daily Beast examines the benefits of fasting. Practically all religions, spiritual movements and even just health movements have proclaimed the benefits of fasting. It seems to have a strengthening effect on the spirit just as much as a healthy (when done right) effect on the body.
Abnegation is a way of adding oomph to any ritual; putting your stomach where your mouth is. It’s like saying, “Hey, God, I really mean it!”
The article points to research of fasting with arthritis, fertility, jet lag and ageing.
Very much like the mind. Fill it with exciting passtimes, and soon your energy depletes. If you try and meditate then the mind will simply leap about – because you have trained it to feed on stimulation. You have trained it to grasp. So it simply does what you have taught it to do. If you appreciate peace – the kind of peace that is vibrant, present and as bright as it is sharp, rather than the peace of a day-off or the peace of a nice snooze – then in meditation the mind settles more quickly. After, if you need to, you can direct the mind to whatever task you need it to perform.
The Sutta description is of a mountain spring that exits the ground and leaks away back into the soil. Compared to the spring that is walled up and the water collected so that it can be used for bathing, washing or drinking. When the wall is broken the water goes rushing in that direction. So does the mind rush to perform what task you set it if you have let it gather itself.
Another analogy from the suttas is that of a carriage with a team of fresh horses waiting at a crossroads. You only have to point the horses and click the reigns and they will charge in that direction.
The benefits of restraint are manifold, in both body (with fasting etc..) and mind. For all that, it has not become very popular in an age where youth and exctiement are held as the Holy Grail.