January 18, 2015
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Inedia (Latin for "fasting") or breatharianism is the belief that it is possible for a person to live without consuming food. Breatharians claim that food, and in some cases water, are not necessary for survival, and that humans can be sustained solely by prana, the vital life force in Hinduism. According to Ayurveda, sunlight is one of the main sources of prana, and some practitioners believe that it is possible for a person to survive on sunlight alone. The terms breatharianism or inedia may also refer to this philosophy practiced as a lifestyle in place of the usual diet.
Breatharianism is considered a lethal pseudoscience by scientists and medical professionals, and several adherents of these practices have died from starvation and dehydration.
Nutritional science proves that fasting for extended periods leads to starvation, dehydration, and eventual death. In the absence of calorie intake, the body normally burns its own reserves of glycogen, body fat, and muscle. Breatharians claim that their bodies do not consume these reserves while fasting.
Some breatharians have submitted themselves to medical testing, including a hospital's observation of Indian mystic Prahlad Jani appearing to survive without food or water for 15 days, and an Israeli breatharian appearing to survive for eight on a television documentary. In a handful of documented cases, individuals attempting breatharian fasting have died. Among the claims in support of Inedia investigated by the Indian Rationalist Association, all were found to be fraudulent. In other cases, people have attempted to survive on sunlight alone, only to abandon the effort after losing a large percentage of their body weight.
The 1670 Rosicrucian text Comte de Gabalis attributed the practice to the physician and occultist Paracelsus (1493 – 1541) who was described as having lived "several years by taking only one half scrupule of Solar Quintessence". In this book, it is also stated that, "Paracelsus affirms that He has seen many of the Sages fast twenty years without eating anything whatsoever."
Ram Bahadur Bomjon
Ram Bahadur Bomjon is a young Nepalese Buddhist monk who lives as an ascetic in a remote area of Nepal. Ram Bahadur Bomzan appears to go for periods of time without ingesting either food or water. One such period was chronicled in a 2006 Discovery Channel documentary The Boy With Divine Powers, which reported that Bomjon neither moved, ate nor drank anything during 96 hours of filming.
Jasmuheen (born Ellen Greve) was a prominent advocate of breatharianism in the 1990s. She claimed, "I can go for months and months without having anything at all other than a cup of tea. My body runs on a different kind of nourishment." Interviewers found her house stocked with food; Jasmuheen claimed the food was for her husband and daughter. In 1999, she volunteered to be monitored closely by the Australian television program 60 Minutes for one week without eating to demonstrate her methods. Jasmuheen stated that she found it difficult on the third day of the test because the hotel room in which she was confined was located near a busy road, causing stress and pollution that prevented absorption of required nutrients from the air. "I asked for fresh air. Seventy percent of my nutrients come from fresh air. I couldn’t even breathe," she said. The third day the test was moved to a mountainside retreat where she regained strength. After Jasmuheen had fasted for four days, Dr. Berris Wink, president of the Queensland branch of the Australian Medical Association, urged her to stop the test.
According to Dr. Wink, Jasmuheen’s pupils were dilated, her speech was slow, and she was "quite dehydrated, probably over 10%, getting up to 11%". Towards the end of the test, she said, "Her pulse is about double what it was when she started. The risks if she goes any further are kidney failure. 60 Minutes would be culpable if they encouraged her to continue. She should stop now". The test was stopped. Dr. Wink said, "Unfortunately there are a few people who may believe what she says, and I'm sure it's only a few, but I think it's quite irresponsible for somebody to be trying to encourage others to do something that is so detrimental to their health". Jasmuheen challenged the results of the program, saying, "Look, 6,000 people have done this around the world without any problem." Though she claims thousands of people are tuned to this, mostly in Germany, there has been no verification that any have lived for extended periods without food although the documentary In The Beginning There Was Light talks to many who claim to do this.
Jasmuheen was awarded the Bent Spoon Award by Australian Skeptics in 2000 ("presented to the perpetrator of the most preposterous piece of paranormal or pseudoscientific piffle"). She also won the 2000 Ig Nobel Prize for Literature for Living on Light. Jasmuheen claims that their beliefs are based on the writings and "more recent channelled material" from St. Germain. She stated that some people's DNA has expanded from 2 to 12 strands, to "absorb more hydrogen". When offered $30,000 to prove her claim with a blood test, she said that she didn't understand the relevance as she was not referring to herself.
In the documentary No Way to Heaven the Swiss chemist Michael Werner claims to have followed the directions appearing on Jasmuheen's books, living for several years without food. The documentary also describes two attempts at scientific verification of his claims. As of 2012, four deaths had been directly linked to breatharianism as a result of Jasmuheen's publications. Jasmuheen has denied any responsibility for the deaths.
Wiley Brooks is the founder of the Breatharian Institute of America. He was first introduced to the public in 1980 when appearing on the TV show That's Incredible!. Brooks stopped teaching recently to "devote 100% of his time on solving the problem as to why he needed to eat some type of food to keep his physical body alive and allow his light body to manifest completely." Brooks claims to have found "four major deterrents" which prevented him from living without food: "people pollution", "food pollution", "air pollution" and "electro pollution".
In 1983 he was reportedly observed leaving a Santa Cruz 7-Eleven with a Slurpee, hot dog and Twinkies. He told Colors magazine in 2003 that he periodically breaks his fasting with a cheeseburger and a cola, explaining that when he's surrounded by junk culture and junk food, consuming them adds balance.
On his website, Brooks states that his potential followers must first prepare by combining the junk food diet with the meditative incantation of five magic "fifth-dimensional" words which appear on his website, some of which are words from Kundalini yoga. In the "5D Q&A" section of his website Brooks claims that cows are fifth-dimensional (or higher) beings that help mankind achieve fifth-dimensional status by converting three-dimensional food to five-dimensional food (beef). In the "Question and Answer" section of his website, Brooks explains that the "Double Quarter-Pounder with Cheese" meal from McDonald's possesses a special "base frequency" and that he thus recommends it as occasional food for beginning breatharians. He then goes on to reveal that Diet Coke is "liquid light". Prospective disciples are asked after some time following the junk food/magic word preparation to revisit his website in order to test if they can feel the magic.
Brooks states that he may be contacted on his fifth-dimensional phone in order to get the correct pronunciation of the five magic words. In case the line is busy, prospective recruits are asked to meditate on the five magic words for a few minutes, and then try calling again.
Brooks's institute has charged varying fees to prospective clients who wished to learn how to live without food, which have ranged from US$100,000 with an initial deposit of $10,000 to one billion dollars, to be paid via bank wire transfer with a preliminary deposit of $100,000, for a session called "Immortality workshop". A payment plan was also offered. These charges have typically been presented as limited time offers exclusively for billionaires.
Prahlad Jani ("Mataji")
Prahlad Jani is an Indian sadhu who has claimed to have lived without food and water for more than 70 years. His claims were investigated by doctors at Sterling Hospital, Ahmedabad, Gujarat in 2003 and 2010. The research team reported that he did not consume any food or water during the testing periods, although they could not comment on his claim of having been able to survive in this way for decades. The study concluded that Prahlad Jani was able to survive under observation for two weeks without either food or water, and had passed no urine or stool, with no need for dialysis. Interviews with the researchers speak of strict observation and relate that round-the-clock observation was ensured by multiple CCTV cameras. Jani was reportedly subjected to multiple medical tests. Jani's only contact with any form of fluid was during gargling and bathing, and the doctors said they measured the fluid that Jani spat out.
The case has attracted criticism, both after the 2003 tests and the recent 2010 tests. Sanal Edamaruku, president of the Indian Rationalist Association, criticized the 2010 experiment for allowing Jani to move out of a certain CCTV camera's field of view, meet devotees and leave the sealed test room to sunbathe. Edamaruku stated that the regular gargling and bathing activities were not sufficiently monitored, and accused Jani of having had some "influential protectors" who denied Edamaruku permission to inspect the project during its operation.
In a television documentary produced by the Israeli television investigative show The Real Face (פנים אמיתיות) hosted by Amnon Levy, Israeli practitioner of Inedia, Ray Maor (ריי מאור), appeared to survive without food or water for eight days and eight nights. According to the documentary, he was restricted to a small villa and placed under constant video surveillance, with medical supervision that included daily blood testing. The documentary claimed Maor was in good spirits throughout the experiment, lost 17 lb after eight days, blood tests showed no change before, during or after the experiment, and Cardiologist Ilan Kitsis from Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center was "baffled."
Hindu religious texts contain account of saints and hermits practicing what would be called inedia, breatharianism or Sustenance through Light in modern terms. In Valmiki's Ramayana, Book III, Canto VI, an account of anchorites and holy men is given, who flocked around Rama when he came to Śarabhanga's hermitage. These included, among others, the "...saints who live on rays which moon and daystar give" and "those ... whose food the wave of air supplies". In Canto XI of the same book a hermit named Māṇḍakarṇi is mentioned: "For he, great votarist, intent – On strictest rule his stern life spent – ... – Ten thousand years on air he fed..." (English quotations are from Ralph T. H. Griffith's translation).
Paramahansa Yogananda's Autobiography of a Yogi details two alleged historical examples of breatharianism, Giri Bala and Therese Neumann.
There are claims that Devraha Baba lived without food.
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