|Part of a series on|
Inedia (Latin for 'fasting') or breatharianism (//) is the claimed ability for a person to live without consuming food, and in some cases water. It is a pseudoscientific practice, and several adherents of these practices have died from starvation or dehydration. Multiple cases where this practice was attempted have resulted in failure or death.
Breatharians claim that food (and sometimes water) is not necessary for survival. The terms breatharianism or inedia may also be used when it is practised as a lifestyle in place of a usual diet.
Documented studies on the physiological effects of food restriction clearly show that fasting for extended periods leads to starvation, dehydration, and eventual death. In the absence of food 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. However, the hospital Jani attended has not published official documentation about the event. 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.
In a handful of documented cases, individuals attempting breatharian fasting have died. Scientific societies such as the British Dietetic Association strongly disadvise the breatharian diet, qualifying it as "dangerous", and stating that "the basic fact is we all need food and liquid in our diet to live."
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 ("Bakji")
Ram Bahadur Bomjon is a Nepalese Buddhist monk who lives as an ascetic in a remote area of Nepal. Bomjon appears to go for long periods of time without ingesting either food or water. One such period was chronicled in a 2006 Discovery Channel documentary titled The Boy With Divine Powers, which reported that Bomjon neither moved, ate, nor drank anything during 96 hours of filming. The documentary makers were, however, prevented from filming Bomjon continuously for that period of time. His claims have never been objectively verified. Bomjon has attracted controversy for abuse and violence against his followers and against any who investigate him. He has been accused of rape, kidnapping, and physical violence.
Prahlad Jani ("Mataji")
Prahlad Jani was an Indian sadhu who claimed to have lived without food and water for more than 70 years. Doctors at Sterling Hospital investigated his claims in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, in 2003 and 2010. The study concluded that Prahlad Jani was able to survive under observation for ten days without food and 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 subjected to multiple medical tests. The research team could not comment on his claim of having been able to survive in this way for decades.
The case has attracted criticism, both after the 2003 tests and the 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.
Jasmuheen (born Ellen Greve) was a prominent advocate of breatharianism in the 1990s. She said, "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 per cent of my nutrients come from fresh air. I couldn’t even breathe," she said. On the third day, the test was moved to a mountainside retreat, where her condition continued to deteriorate. After Jasmuheen had fasted for four days, Berris Wink, president of the Queensland branch of the Australian Medical Association, urged her to stop the test.
According to 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. 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."
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.
As of 2017[update], five deaths had been directly linked to breatharianism as a result of Jasmuheen's publications. Jasmuheen has denied any responsibility for three of the deaths.
Wiley Brooks (1936–2016) was the founder of the Breatharian Institute of America. He was first introduced to the public in 1980 when he appeared on the TV show That's Incredible! Brooks stopped teaching shortly before his death in 2016 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, a 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.
Brooks later claimed that "All McDonalds are constructed on properties that are protected by 5th Dimensional high energy/spiritual portals", encouraging the consumption of Diet Coke and McDonald's Double-Quarter-Pounder/with cheese meal ("It is also acceptable to combine 2 quarter-pounder with cheese burgers to make one double-quarter pounder if you can't get the double-quarter-pounder with cheese where you live"), and discouraging the consumption of "water of any kind". The idea of separate but interconnected 5D and 3D worlds was a major part of Brooks' ideology, and Brooks encouraged his followers to only eat these special 5D foods, as well as to meditate on a set of magical 5D words.
Brooks's institute has set various prices for prospective clients wishing to learn how to live without food, ranging from US$100,000 with an initial deposit of $10,000, to fifty billion dollars, to be paid via bank wire transfer with a preliminary deposit of $100,000, for a session called an "Immortality workshop". A payment plan was also offered. These charges were typically presented as limited time offers exclusively for billionaires.
Hira Ratan Manek
Hira Ratan Manek (1937–2022) claimed that since 18 June 1995, he lived on water and occasionally tea, coffee, and buttermilk. Manek stated that sungazing was the key to his health, citing yogis, ancient Egyptians, Aztecs, Mayas, and Native Americans as practitioners of the art. While he and his proponents stated that medical experts confirmed his ability to draw sustenance by gazing at the Sun, a method which came to be known as "HRM phenomenon" (by his initials), he was caught on camera eating a big meal in a San Francisco restaurant in the 2011 documentary Eat the Sun. Manek died in March 2022, less than a month after his wife Vimala died.
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; that he lost 7.5 kilograms (17 lb) after eight days; that blood tests showed no change before, during or after the experiment; and that cardiologist Ilan Kitsis from Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center was "baffled".
Mythology and religion
Some Hindu religious texts contain accounts of saints and hermits practising 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).
Some breatharians claim 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.
Bigu (grain avoidance) is a fasting technique with various different interpretations, from simply avoiding eating specific grains, to avoiding all grains, to eating no food at all, and drawing sustenance from gulps of air.
There are varying types of fasts practised by followers of Jainism. Some Jain monks and laities continuously fast for months. These fasts last six months or even longer. A Jain monk, Sahaj Muni Maharaj, is said to have completed his 365-day fast on 1 May 1998. Another Jain monk Hansaratna Vijayji was said to have completed 423-day fast in 494 days in 2015. He had previously claimed to have fasted for 108 days in 2013 and for 180 days in 2014. Several others have claimed to have fasted for six months.
- "Top 5 Worst Celebrity Diets to Avoid in 2014". bda.uk.com. 22 March 2014. Archived from the original on 22 March 2014.
- "UK: Scotland Woman 'starved herself to death'". BBC. 21 September 1999. Retrieved 10 March 2008.
- Walker, Tom; O'Reilly, Judith (26 September 1999). "Three deaths linked to 'living on air' cult". Sunday Times (London).
- "Swiss woman dies after attempting to live on sunlight; Woman gave up food and water on spiritual journey". Associated Press. 25 April 2012. Archived from the original on 28 April 2012.
- Johnstone, A. M. (2007). "Fasting – the ultimate diet?". Obesity Reviews. 8 (3): 211–222. doi:10.1111/j.1467-789X.2006.00266.x. ISSN 1467-789X. PMID 17444963. S2CID 675246.
- Lambert, Katie. "Can humans survive on air alone?". HowStuffWorks, Inc. Archived from the original on 26 February 2013. Retrieved 30 July 2009.
- "Rationalists doubt claims made for 'Mataji' Prahalad Jani". DNA India. Diligent Media Corporation Ltd. 16 May 2010. Archived from the original on 20 May 2010. Retrieved 19 September 2012.
- "Hermit Claims 70 Years Survival Without Food". WUSA 9. 29 April 2010. Archived from the original on 5 May 2010. Retrieved 4 August 2010.
- Lacitis, Erik (17 June 2013). "Fasting woman to end attempt to 'live on light'". Seattle Times.
- "Top 5 Worst Celebrity Diets to Avoid in 2015". www.bda.uk.com. 8 December 2014.
- abbé de Nicolas-Pierre-Henri, Villars (1914). Comte de Gabalis (1914 ed.). The Brothers. pp. 63–64.
- "Nepalese Buddha Boy 'reappears'". BBC News. 20 March 2006.
- "paldendorje.com". Archived from the original on 17 September 2014.
- "The Boy With Divine Powers".
- "The Boy With Divine Powers (3/5)". August 2008.
- "Police raid 'Buddha boy' ashram in Nepal". CNN. 11 January 2019.
- Lang, Olivia (27 July 2010). "Nepal's 'Buddha boy' investigated for attacking group". BBC. Retrieved 17 February 2012.
- Brennan, David (7 January 2019). ""Buddha Boy" spiritual leader investigated over missing followers and sexual abuse allegations". Newsweek.
- Bhandari, Diwakar. "Buddha Boy turns violent' thrashes siblings Holds three of his brothers hostage overnight". Himalayan Times. Archived from the original on 8 February 2014. Retrieved 14 November 2018.
- "'Ascetic' Ram Bahadur Bamjan accused of raping nun". Online Khabar. 16 September 2018. Retrieved 14 November 2018.
- Emburry-Dennis, Tom (11 January 2019). "Ashram of 'Buddha boy' worshipped as reincarnation of Buddha raided by police after devotees 'disappear'". Independent.
- Dasgupta, Manas (9 May 2010). "The Hindu – DIPAS concludes observational study on 'Mataji'". Archived from the original on 31 December 2015. Retrieved 15 June 2010.[dead link]
- Rajeev Khanna (25 November 2003). "Fasting fakir flummoxes physicians". BBC News. Archived from the original on 28 March 2016. Retrieved 7 June 2008.
- "Scientists Baffled by Prahlad Jani, Man Who Doesn't Eat or Drink". ABC News. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016.
- "Experts baffled as Mataji's medical reports are normal". 7 May 2010. Archived from the original on 28 January 2013.
- Edamaruku, Sanal (18 May 2010). "Prahlad Jani and his powerful protectors". Rationalistinternational.net. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 14 June 2010.
- Keith, L. (2009). The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability. PM Press. ISBN 9781604861822.[dead link]
- "Living on air: Breatharian put to the test". Archived from the original on 2 November 2005.
- "Jasmuheen". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 7 June 2008.
- "Fresh-air dietician fails TV show's challenge". Yahoo News. 25 October 1999. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
- Bergman, Gregory (2006). Isms: From Autoeroticism to Zoroastrianism – an Irreverent Reference. Adams Media. p. 32. ISBN 1440517886.
- Harris, Gillian (6 April 2000). "Starvation guru given hostile reception". The Times.
- "Mysticism". Archived from the original on 9 February 2012. Retrieved 7 June 2008.
- "Bent Spoon 2000 – Winner (Jasmuheen)". Archived from the original on 16 June 2005. Retrieved 7 June 2008.
- "The 2000 Ig Nobel Prize Winners". improbable.com. 5 October 2000. Archived from the original on 25 February 2011. Retrieved 28 October 2019.
- "All they need is the air". BBC News. 22 September 1999. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 11 January 2010.
- "Correx Archives – Jasmuheen". Corex. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 1997. Archived from the original on 23 April 1998. Retrieved 7 June 2008.
- Walker, Tom; Judith O'Reilly (26 September 1999). "Three deaths linked to 'living on air' cult". The Sunday Times. (London).
- "Swiss woman starves to death on daylight diet". Herald Sun. 26 April 2012. Retrieved 26 April 2012. "This was the fourth known death linked to breatharianism and Jasmuheen's books since the practice emerged in the early 90s."
- "Contact & Muziek: Lichtvoeding". Archived from the original on 12 June 2017. Retrieved 13 June 2017.
- van der Veen, Casper (12 June 2017). "OM onderzoekt sterfgeval in woongroep die voeding afzweert". NRC Handelsblad. Amsterdam. Retrieved 13 June 2017.
- Collie, Jason (29 June 2000). "No-food guru in deaths inquiry". NZ Herald.
- Tucker, S.D. (2018). Quacks!: Dodgy Doctors and Foolish Fads Throughout History. Amberley Publishing Limited. ISBN 9781445671826.
- Bote, Joshua (9 March 2022). "The strange, sad Bay Area cult that fell apart over a pot pie". SFGATE. Retrieved 10 March 2022.
- Broom, Jack (5 October 1993). "Living on Light, Air – 'Breatharian' Says Food Is Poison But Pops An Occasional Twinkie". Seattle Times. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 12 February 2009.
- "Wiley Brooks website through Internet Archive". 11 February 2006. Archived from the original on 11 February 2006. Retrieved 30 July 2009.
- Yewell, John (ed.). "A Year of Nüz". MetroActive News & Issues. Archived from the original on 3 October 2000. Retrieved 7 June 2008.
- "sonoma papers". Metroactive.com. Archived from the original on 6 March 2003. Retrieved 30 July 2009.
- "The Five Sacred Names". www.breatharian.com. Retrieved 31 July 2023.
- "Breatharian Institute of America". www.breatharian.com. Archived from the original on 22 May 2014. Retrieved 11 January 2022.
- "Wiley Brooks website: Initiation workshops". Breatharian.com. Archived from the original on 7 November 2015. Retrieved 30 July 2009.
- "Immortality workshop". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 21 November 2010
- "Initiation workshops from the Internet Archive". 13 February 2008. Archived from the original on 13 February 2008. Retrieved 30 July 2009.
- "Fees via Internet archive". Archived from the original on 18 July 2006. Retrieved 30 July 2009.
- "Initiation workshops through Internet Archive". Archived from the original on 13 February 2008.. Retrieved January 2008.
- "Hira ratan manek: Hira Ratan Manek Who Lived on Water and Sunlight No More | Ahmedabad News". The Times of India.
- "Solar Healing Center". Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 6 February 2012.
- Timoshik, Alexander (28 August 2006). "Man lives for 11 years eating only sunlight". Retrieved 24 February 2015.
- Santhosh, K. (10 December 2005). "Sharing their love for food, water, sunlight". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 3 September 2015. Retrieved 24 February 2015.
- "Eat the Sun". IMDb. 11 May 2011. Retrieved 24 February 2015.
- Storr, Will (6 May 2013). "The man who lives without food". Archived from the original on 8 May 2013. Retrieved 24 February 2015.
- "The man who consumed the sun is no more". The Hindu. 13 March 2022. Retrieved 8 January 2023.
- "הפנים האמיתיות של משחקי הרעב – חלק א' [The true face of The Hunger Games – Part I". Real Faces – Full Episodes (in Hebrew). Nana10 Ltd. 11 October 2013. Archived from the original (Flash required) on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
- "הפנים האמיתיות של משחקי הרעב – חלק א' [The true face of The Hunger Games – Part II". Real Faces – Full Episodes (in Hebrew). Nana10 Ltd. 11 October 2013. Archived from the original (Flash required) on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
- "האדם שלא אכל ולא שתה במשך 8 ימים [Man did not eat or drink for 8 days]". IDF Radio (in Hebrew). Israel Defense Forces. 20 October 2013.
- Maspero, Henri (1981). Taoism and Chinese Religion. Translated by Kierman Jr., Frank A. University of Massachusetts Press. ISBN 9780870233081.
- "Jainism: Fasting". www.bbc.co.uk – BBC – Religions. Retrieved 29 May 2020.
- Jain, Bhavika (1 November 2015). "Jain monk completes 423 days of fasting". The Times of India – Mumbai. Retrieved 29 May 2020.
- Shukla, Ashutosh M. (22 February 2014). "Jain Sadhu's 180-day fasting to be celebrated". DNA India. Retrieved 29 May 2020.
- "Bhavnagar woman fasts for 180 days, CM attends parna". Ahmedabad Mirror. 4 September 2019. Archived from the original on 26 September 2020. Retrieved 29 May 2020.
- Shukla, Ashutosh M. (2 March 2014). "Family pours Rs 21 crore on water used to break Jain muni's fast". DNA India. Retrieved 29 May 2020.