Eighty-two year old Indian Yogi affectionately known as Mataji claims to have survived for approximately 70 years without consuming any food or water. A global collective of 30 physicians have spent 15 days performing a battery of tests, and have concluded that the health of the yogi is above par for most healthy men his age.
Mataji, or Prahlad Jani as he is formally named, credits a “special type of yoga” that he practices for allowing this miraculous feat. The study, conducted by the Defense Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences (DIPAS), was performed to understand how a human being could survive without sustenance or the naturally resulting elimination for long periods of time.
DIPAS Director G. Ilavezhagen told journalists “A scientific understanding of the mechanism of such survival may help in working out survival strategies under stressful and extreme conditions. This may have applications during natural calamities and disasters.”
The yogi was under constant surveillance through closed-circuit camera in the hospital in Sterling Hospital in Ahmedabad, during which time he took in no fluids or food. He did gargle occasionally and take baths. The only parameters Mataji set for the testing was to forgo any invasive tests that would require him to consume any fluids.
Mataji claims that when he was eight years old a divine form of the goddess appeared to him and touched his tongue, since then he has not felt the desire to eat or drink and has survived on “solar energy.” The team did not observe any noticeable metabolic change indicative of fasting, and found that Mr. Jani’s systems were all functioning at “normal levels.” Dr. Ilavezhagen stated that it was still too early to draw conclusions about the “survival mechanism,” but that several factors were worthy of closer examination.
Could this be true? That a human being could survive for seven decades without eating or drinking anything and not waste away due to malnutrition? It is so hard to fathom the severe austerities that some Indian yogis employ, though so many are easier to believe than this one. Sure, with the aid of a support, a sadhu can keep his arm raised above his head for twenty years, or never cut his fingernails, but no food or drink…that’s a whole other level of extreme.
Though this account might seem improbable or even outlandish, many of the classical yogic text describe feats such as this and even more unbelievable as part of the natural course of a deepening practice. Patanjali, the author of the Yoga Sutras, dedicates the whole third chapter to the amazing Siddhis (Powers) that can be gained from intense and sustained practice. Things like levitation and omniscience are observed as a natural evolution from an intensely sustained practice.
In Chapter 30 of the great Parmahansa Yoganada’s book Autobiography of a Yogi, he expounds on the “Law of Miracles” and the tendency for modern science to discount fantastic and bizarre tales such as these, but acknowledge without qualm all of the ways that “modern” science accepts basic physical principles that defy scientific logic as adequate and commonplace. Things like the dual nature of light (particle/wave) and electricity which is a “phenomenon of repulsion and attraction,” are accepted without question, much the same way the illusion (maya) that the world was flat instead of round was ingrained in the minds of so many before a handful of brave explorers defied “logic.”
I am not saying that I think this “starving” saint is bona fide, but I am also not saying that he is not. If the practice yoga teaches us one thing over and over again, it is to believe that the impossible is possible. In every moment, we are called to see the infinite possibility that sits quietly behind all of the distraction and deception of the monkey mind and the habituation of culture. Granted, in our Western experience, the examples of this might be much less extreme, but they even happen here. Though their shape and form might be different from the traditional Siddhis of Classical Yoga. So maybe we as a community of yogis can open our minds to the unbelievable, or at least try to fathom the unfathomable. But, maybe not.
What do you think about the claims made about Mataji?