By Jamuna Rangachari March 2006 In the depths of kaliyug, can mankind survive without food or water? A clutch of visionaries teaching the secrets of accessing energy through the sun and fresh air offer the way forward Fish laced with mercury, vegetables riddled with pesticides, grain containing traces of chemicals and water steeped in industrial waste. The sobering truth of living in today’s times is that almost everything we eat and drink is laced with poison. The American Medical Association has warned that pregnant mothers and infants should not eat vegetables that are mass-produced in the United States. Dr Andrew Weil has advised Americans not to eat shellfish or deep-water ocean fish because their bodies now contain so many toxic chemicals. It is not hard to imagine that the scenario ahead of us can only be more dismal. According to many sources, including the Brahma Kumaris, Kaliyug will be distinguished by unpotable water and inedible food. In such an eventuality, how do we survive? Incredibly, there are people in the ancient past and even in the present, who have managed to do away with the need for food or drink. Reaching the highest level of consciousness, they get their energy directly from cosmic consciousness. Practices and PractitionersWhen I saw Sunyogi Umasankar, 39, the first thought that struck me was, how totally at ease he seemed in a thin muslin dhoti on a chilly winter morning. I then came to know that he is totally immune to climatic conditions and had even gone to Kailash Mansarovar in the same attire. The most amazing fact is, of course, that he has had the capacity to subsist without food and water since 1996. Sunyogiji does eat, but he can go for long stretches of time, amounting to weeks, without material subsistence. Sunyogiji says he become conscious of the fact that his body was absorbing the energies of the sun suddenly, while practicing sun meditation at Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry. After this, the first step was recognizing that his body now needed less food. He began skipping meals – eating only when hungry and not because it was ‘meal time’. Gradually, as the need for food reduced more and more – he realized that he was totally free of hunger. The technique itself seems ludicrously simple. To begin with, all that is involved is steady gazing at the early morning sun for around 20 minutes, while at the same time, remaining undisturbed by invading thoughts, without trying too hard to avoid them. A rhythmic breath pattern is recommended, though it is not essential. The trick is to gaze at the rim of the sun. However, it is extremely important to do this under the Sunyogi’s guidance. ‘Of course, the more one practices, the more one would benefit,’ he says, sharing that he himself has stayed for hours in this meditative state. While most people are attracted to the technique because of its promise of a miraculous freedom from hunger, Swamiji maintains that the real benefit is a calm and clear mind and a gradual progression towards atma gyan. ‘This can be obtained from any meditation practice, of course. I am teaching this method as I found it most effective,’ he says. With regular practice, he is convinced that any aspirant can gradually move towards better health, but cautions that nothing should be forced on the body. Swami Paramahansa Yogananda, in his book, Autobiography of a Yogi, talks about a meeting with Yogini Giri Bala, who lived for several decades without food. Intrigued when he heard of the woman saint who did not touch food, he traveled many miles to see her, and was not disappointed. A simple, serene lady who continued to live with her family and take part in all activities, including cooking and feeding others, Giri Bala had stopped taking food for more than five decades, using a yogic technique taught to her by her guru who declared, ‘You shall live by the astral light, your bodily atoms fed from the infinite current.’ Former Kerala-based businessman, Hira Ratan Manek (69), through his study of the life of the Jain Tirthankara, Bhagvan Mahavir (who used to practise sun gazing) has perfected a technique of sun gazing which he practices and teaches. According to him, this method is enough to cure any kind of psychological problem, develop confidence and overcome any kind of fear, including that of death. As one practices the technique further, it renders freedom from physical illnesses and finally even hunger, thus yielding a peaceful, harmonious body and mind. Since June 18, 1995, he has been living only on sun energy and water, with the occasional intake of tea, coffee or buttermilk. He has undertaken three lengthy fasts under medical supervision in order to validate his claims. The first was for 211 days in 1995-96 in Calicut, under the direction of Dr C.K. Ramchandran. He next undertook a 411-day fast in 2000-2001 in Ahmedabad, under the supervision of an international team of 21 doctors. The unbelievable results prompted an invitation to Thomas Jefferson Unive-rsity and University of Pennsylvania, where he underwent a 130-day observation period led by Dr Andrew B. Newberg, a leading authority on the brain. The results proved that his gray cells had regenerated, and his pineal gland, far from shrinking as is customary after the age of 55, had actually expanded to the size of 8 x 11 mm as opposed to the normal size of 6 x 6 mm. He affirms that sun energy has the power to activate the brain and release its inherent potential. His method is pretty similar to the Sunyogi’s, except that he recommends looking at the early morning or setting sun within one hour of both events, beginning with gazing at it for 10 seconds, and gradually increasing it by 10 seconds every day. A preliminary eye-check up is advisable and periodic checks too. In all a nine-month process, at the end of three months when one would be gazing at the sun for 15 minutes, he promises the development of self-confidence and fearlessness. Within three to six months, he promises the healing of physical diseases. At seven-and-a-half months, when one is sun gazing for 35 minutes, hunger reduces palpably. After nine months, there is no further need to sun gaze. He suggests walking barefoot on the bare earth under the heat of the sun for six days. This, he says, will activate the third eye. Hunger will reduce further, for the direct energy of the sun is now accessible. From now on, sun gazing for a few minutes, once in three or four days, is adequate. Acharya Jowel is yet another committed to popularizing the technique of sun gazing, which he calls Suryayog. Calling it a natural tonic from surya, the sun, he says, ‘Suryayog strengthens the mind enabling it to withstand all things. It can even resolve terrorism by bringing clarity to the mind.’ His method too is similar, though he recommends a series of exercises. These include gazing naked-eyed at the sun, chanting, deep breathing, a few yogic postures, and bowing down to nature. Jasmuheen, author of Living on Light, and acclaimed practitioner of pranic nourishment and breatharianism, has lived on light from 1993 onwards, allowing her physical body to be ‘pranically fed’. Through a 21-day process, she helps people move from a non-vegetarian intake to becoming vegetarian, fruitarian and finally to breatharianism or living on pure air. Through this, she hopes to help more people connect to the Divine One Within or DOW. The Common ThreadThough we have examples of people living without food, and there are ancient techniques recommended by Hindu, Taoist and Buddhist traditions that are well tested by spiritual adepts, there is also a clear caution that it is a long process and one needs to tread very carefully. As P. Prabhath, a freelance writer and intuitive consultant who has studied this phenomenon, says, ‘Living on the energy of prana and consciousness involves a physical transformation of the body, involving intense cleansing processes at the psychological, emotional and physical levels.’ In other words, there needs to be a gradual shift in consciousness, when one moves to a peaceful state, where one’s energies do not get dissipated in negative emotions. In fact, the word ‘upavasam’, which we understand as fasting, actually means ‘living near God’, in Sanskrit. The original intent of fasting, practiced by most religions, is to purify oneself. Being in a peaceful state leads one naturally to less craving, better rest and sleep, and therefore, less hunger. Why?How does this work? How can we be nourished by the sun? As we know, plants are the original energy source for all animals; they feed herbivores, which then provide food for carnivores. In turn, plants get their energy from the sun. Sun gazing gives us direct access to the original form of energy. Moreover, it has always been emphasized by spiritual teachers, that food is not the only source of energy. Prana, obtained through breathing, has traditionally been understood to be a huge source of energy, as also good sleep and a peaceful mind. All three factors nourish the mental, emotional and spiritual faculties and therefore diminish our need for material subsistence. Sages and yogis throughout Indian history have demonstrated the ability to eat little or no solids. Gagangiri Baba, a Maharashtra-based hatha yogi, partakes of no food whatsoever, for his refined cells decay when confronted with it. Likewise, Mahatma Gandhi reduced and refined his food intake progressively. One reason for the sudden rise of sun yogis and fresh air votaries may be that accessing energy directly from the air and the sun could be the next evolutionary shift for us. Perhaps, as Satyug gradually manifests, one of its defining principles is a more rarefied state of being which might include a less material body. Indeed Krishnanand, a Bangalore-based spi
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