This is widely recognized in Buddhism as well as in other spiritual traditions. Acquisition of the siddhis could lead to clairvoyance, telekinesis and thus liberation from hunger and thirst.
While modern science is less and less wary of abilities like telepathy, remote viewing and precognition, little research has been done on breatharianism. Still, there are some brilliant minds who believe it really exists, including Nikola Tesla . In 1901 he said the following about it:
I suspect that life will evolve into a form of existence that no longer needs nourishment, that is not tied to limiting needs all the time. Why couldn’t a living being just get all the energy it needs to function from its environment, instead of taking in food and then using a complex biochemical process to convert it into the energy it needs to survive? can survive? ( source )
Liberation from food and hunger sounds quite far-fetched and according to modern biology it would be downright impossible. But then again, if the history of modern science teaches us one thing, it’s that what’s impossible one day is on the shelves the next. A good example of this is the recent discovery that people can influence their own immune system with their mind .
Let’s see what happened when people who reported not eating were scientifically examined.
Amazing results have been achieved with Bigu Qi Gong diets and Qi Gong forms in which nothing was eaten at all. There was a study in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine, as reflected in the US National Library of Medicine archive , in which it was shown that a certain woman with special abilities had been able to influence the germination rate of seeds to produce a create a better seed stock. This is just one documented example.
Supporters of the charismatic movement in India also say they can live without food. Dean Radin , who teaches science at the Institute of Noetic Science, the organization of the late astronaut Edgar Mitchell, explains it this way in his book Supernormal: Science, Yoga, and the Evidence for Extraordinary Psychic Abilities :
This means that the human body can convert environmental energy into nutrients. By practicing this ability, a person can go as long as they want without food, and maybe even without water! In the Yoga Sutras this is described in Pada 111:30 as a siddhi : liberation from hunger and thirst.
This seems to go against an overwhelming amount of our medical knowledge; after all, we have learned that the human body could go five days without water and at most a few weeks without food. Any longer than that, you’re dead. And despite a decent list of examples of people going years without food, perhaps even without drinking, most nutritionists and biochemists still see this as absurd and impossible. The people who claim that it is really possible – and there are hundreds of them worldwide – are seen as crazy. Maybe there could be some crazy people in there. But not all those people, right?
Prahlad Jani is from Ahmedabad in India. He claims that when he was 11, the Hindu goddess Amba came to him and told him that he would not have to eat any more food. He has reportedly lived in a cave since the 1970s, and says he has (almost) not eaten his entire life, he was 81 in 2012, otherwise.
In 2003 and 2010, Jani was examined at the Sterling Hospital in Ahmadebad by Dr Sudhir Shah and his colleagues. Shah is a neurologist with twenty years of experience, as well as a professor and head of training in the neurology program of the KM School of PG Medicine and Research.
During the first examination, in 2003, Jani was monitored around the clock, both by hospital staff and by cameras. This showed that Jani actually did not eat or drink anything. He also showed no physiological changes, which, again according to modern medical science, would be impossible. This investigation lasted ten days. That may not seem like a long time, but ten days without food or water, with no noticeable impact on a person’s physiology, is extremely remarkable.
From April 22 to May 6, 2010, Jani was re-examined in the same hospital. He was observed by forty-five researchers, including those from the Indian Defense Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences. He has demonstrably had nothing to eat or drink for two weeks. Like 7 years before, he showed no sign of physical deterioration. This is really unbelievable and it is not in line with what we (think we) know about the human body and the need for nourishment of the human body.
Unsurprisingly, neither these studies nor the findings have ever been published in scientific journals. Still, there has been a lot of criticism, but it seems to be fairly easy to counter. The idea that Jani, with the help of his followers, would have escaped the attention of the hospital staff and the cameras, and that he would have secretly eaten and drunk, for example. However, the hospital staff insists that this is really not possible, because he would have been watched the whole time, according to the study design.
Even with this criticism, the evidence seems to be there. Jani’s power then indeed corresponds to the well-known siddhi .
A group of scientists, including staff at the aforementioned Defense Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences, gave a press statement to ABC News in 2010:
We came to the conclusion that if this actually happened to a human being, even if only for 15 days, it would have immense consequences for both medical science and the well-being of humanity.
We have therefore decided not to ignore the research results, but to explore them further in an empirical, scientifically sound manner. The research design was not to prove or disprove the story of one human being, but to explore a scientific course and study a new phenomenon. ( SOURCE )
Quite an interesting story, huh?
Then there was another case, involving chemist Michael Werner, director of a pharmaceutical research institute in Switzerland. Mr. Werner states that on January 1, 2001, he stopped eating solid foods. In October 2004 he was examined for ten days in the intensive care unit of a hospital in Switzerland, and like Jani, Michael Werner also showed no obvious physiological changes. The results of this study have not yet been published.
Dean Radin of the Institute of Noetic Science explains why such studies may never be published and why very little attention has been paid to this particular phenomenon:
The most striking aspect of the studies of so-called breathariers is the yawning gap between the importance of the phenomenon on the one hand and the almost absolute disinterest of established science on the other. If it is really possible to live a healthy life without eating anything, it should be extremely easy to demonstrate, and if it were demonstrated, it would be of extreme interest to both science and humanity.
The fact is that most scientists prefer to dismiss things they cannot explain as ridiculous and if not impossible, at least highly improbable. So they won’t even want to investigate it. They would rather reject the thought immediately, without looking at it with scientific neutrality and curiosity.
Another reason for this phenomenon could be fear. Researchers usually rely on a variety of stakeholders for funding, and they know all too well that if a topic seems insane, fundraising could become a problem. Should they nevertheless enter into such a vague investigation, they can count on the scorn of the establishment.
Werner had heard of breatharianism from an Australian spiritual teacher, Jasmuheen, who teaches about the transition from eating to not eating. Jasmuheen herself has also been the subject of a study, but after 48 hours of monitoring she already showed complaints such as stress, high blood pressure and dehydration. Whoever is reading this is not crazy, this is not something you just jump into. It can be extremely dangerous; it often happens that people die if they just stop eating and drinking.
The Science of Fasting
Science is gradually becoming open to the positive effects of abstinence . Mark Mattson, chief of neuroscience research at the National Institute of Aging and also a professor of neuroscience at John Hopkins University, gave a great TED talk on fasting in 2014. Apparently fasting ensures that new stem cells are produced, that you repair DNA and that cancer as well as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s are combated, just to name a few .
Also interesting is that animal studies show that less nutrition often leads to better health and even longer life.