Doctors have completed a 15 day examination of an Indian holy man who says he hasn’t eaten in 70 years and claims to live on a “spiritual life force” alone.
Fox News is reporting that Prahlad Jani, 83, just completed a 15 day stay in a hospital in Ahmedabad, India, where doctors with India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) studied him with the hopes of finding ways to help people such as astronauts or those trapped in natural disasters, to survive for long periods of time without food or water.
Jani, who has lived as a wandering sadhu (holy man) since the age of seven, claims to be a “breatharian”, someone who can live on a “spiritual life force” alone. He believes he is being sustained by a goddess who pours an “elixir” through a hole in his palate.
At the conclusion of the experiment, during which time he neither ate nor drank, nor excreted urine or excrement, neurologist Sudhir Shah said, “We still do not know how he survives. It is still a mystery what kind of phenomenon this is.”
Jani then returned home to his village near Ambaji in northern Gujarat after leaving the hospital, where he says he will resume his routine of yoga and meditation.
Does this mean Jani is authentic?
Well, not exactly. After reading this story the other day, I decided to do a little digging and found out Mr. Jani and Dr. Shah pulled a similar publicity stunt in 2003 but that time things didn’t go so well.
According to a newsletter published by The Skeptics Dictionary, Jani and his promoters, led by Dr. Shah, were debunked several years ago by Sanal Edamaruku of the Indian Rationalist Association.
Edamaruku made a name for himself in 1999 when he investigated a similar case of Kumari Neerja, a girl who claimed to be the reincarnation of Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of letters and literature. She lived for five years in a small closet and claimed to take no food or excrete any waste during that time.
In cooperation with the police, investigators along with several physicians searched Neerja’s room and found the entry to a little toilet hidden behind a shelf, along with a hole through she was receiving food. Blood tests revealed the presence of glucose, indicating that she was indeed eating. Finally, investigators filled the room with a harmless gas that causes vomiting, after which Ms. Neerja emptied the contents of her stomach – potatoes and chipatti (Indian flatbread).
As it turns out, the woman was a mental case who has since been admitted to a local government hospital.
In the case of Prahlad Jani, however, the man’s handlers will not allow Edamaruku any where near him. He was not allowed to investigate during the 2003 testing of Jani (the results were inconclusive) or in the most recent testing of Jani’s claims.
“I asked to be allowed to send an independent team to survey the room where this test is taking place, but I was repeatedly turned down,” Edamaruku says.
The newsletter also recounts that “Dr. Shah has been in charge of three similar investigations over the past ten years, and he has never allowed independent verification. In 2000, he was asking for funds to investigate a man he claimed got his energy from the sun, just like plants do. In 2003, he even approached NASA for funds to investigate Mr. Jani, claiming astronauts might benefit from the research. This particular hospital, led by this particular doctor, keeps on making these claims without ever producing evidence or publishing research.”
Another reason for suspicion is that Dr. Shah never presents his evidence to any scientific journal or committee.
While reading this story, I couldn’t help but think of the saints who survived on the Eucharist alone for many years such as Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich who lived for 10 years on water and the Eucharist, and Blessed Alexandrina Maria da Costa who survived for 13 years on no food other than the Bread of Angels. They didn’t run around begging for testing to prove the miracle of their survival, yet word managed to spread anyway. And in the end, all for the glory redounded to God – where it belonged.