Do you know how to live on cosmic energy alone, or do you know anyone who has this ability?
—Michiels Davy, Belgium
Personally I have never tried to live on prana alone, without any food, and I will tell you why.
Theoretically I do know how it works. You teach your body to depend increasingly on cosmic energy which enters the body through the medulla oblongata. You can increase that flow by will and visualization, and through certain exercises.
Such a training (pulling comic prana into the body) is offered for example by Yogananda’s Energization Exercises. He actually has a prayer: “Help me to learn, O Spirit, to live more and more by direct cosmic energy and less and less by food.” One also trains himself to consciously pull prana from sunlight and air. Another training is the mind: as long as it thinks we will die without food, yes, we will die. So the mind has to truly know that the body can live by energy alone.
However, there is a big “be careful” attached to such an ambition. It concerns our intention. Why do you want to learn such a thing (if that is your or anyone’s desire)? Because it is spectacular? Because it is a power? My understanding is that if any such ability should come to us spontaneously, great. But actively and consciously striving for it represents a major distraction on the path. Working on such a “miracle” requires loads of our concentration, focus, and energy which are better spent elsewhere.
A yoga student of mine recently was seriously set on learning to live on prana alone. There are courses and books around (I have one) which teach how to do it. I recommended to him to let go of this ambition. Such achievement has nothing to do with spiritual advancement. It is better concentrate on developing inner purity, to work on our weaknesses and the ego, to transform our heart, and to focus on our spiritual techniques of yoga and meditation.
Phenomena mean nothing. I met a yogi in India with the power to materialize objects. Did his consciousness impress me? Not at all. A thief can develop such power through great concentration and right technique.
Another time a Western couple advised me: “Go there, to this yogi. You can see him levitate.” I didn’t go. Why run for phenomena? “The path to God is not a circus,” Yogananda taught.
In Badrinath I met a sadhu who was known to live purely on cosmic energy, eating nothing. I talked with him, and believed him. But did he impress me, as a yogi? No.
On the other hand I met great yogis who did (and do) impress me. They eat cheerfully and love good food. Yogis often feed their disciples or visitors sumptuously. Food is somehow a channel of love. Also when leaving temples in India, one gets a little sweet food, prashad, which is a symbol of God’s sweet love and blessing.
Durga Mata, a disciple of Yogananda, went on strict fasts whenever the Master was gone, getting very thin. The Master didn’t encourage her at all. Coming home he always complained, and stuffed her, making her gain weight again. He wanted his lady disciples to be rather round.
Swami Kriyananda too once went on a rigid grape fast, but found that Yogananda was not encouraging him. “Devotion is the greatest purifier,” he remarked, smiling. “Is it your wish then, Sir, that we break this fast?” Kriyananda asked him. “Well, I don’t want you to break your will, now that you have set it this way. But your time would be better spent in working to develop devotion. A pure heart is the way to God, not a pure stomach!” Kriyananda just continued for a few days.
In the Autobiography of a Yogi, too, we read: “Sri Yukteswar discountenanced any extremes. A disciple once started a long fast. My guru only laughed: ‘Why not throw the dog a bone?'”
That being said, Yogananda did advise regular fasting, one day a week, and three days each month. That is good. But if our intention is to learn to live on cosmic energy, we might be on a track toward a land called nowhere. It might be better think it over and go somewhere fruitful.
God bless you,