Nirahara Samyama (Liberation from the dependence on food for energy)
[DRAFT, 20th Aug 2012]
Disclaimer: I am neither selling anything here nor advising you to engage in or abstain from anything. Just sharing an experience that I think is profound and also since many have inquired about it. The experiences described here are my own and may differ from the experiences of others who also went through the same process. Similarly, their opinions and conclusions may differ. It is not my intent to provide misleading information, but like any recollection of events, there is a possibility of some inaccuracies. I am not responsible for the actions you take based on what you read here. I am an Engineer by education and profession and do not have a background in the medical profession or health sciences.
What is the Nirahara Samyama ?
‘Ahara’ in Sanskrit refers to food. ‘Ni’ is a prefix used for negation, somewhat similar to ‘non’ in English. ‘Nirahara’ means ‘without food’. The Sanskrit word ‘Samyama’ is used for certain types of processes, techniques and practices in Indian scriptures on Yoga such as Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.
Sometime in July 2012, Swami Nithyananda Paramahamsa (henceforth referred to as Swamiji) publicly initiated the first batch of people spread around the world into a process that awakens their body’s ability to extract energy directly from the space around them. This initiation simultaneously liberated them from their dependency on food as the primary source of energy. Consequently food becomes an alternative or optional energy source. The world-wide initiation was conducted over a 2-way video conferencing system. As far I can recollect, over two hundred people registered for this initiation. Enrollment was open to anybody interested in taking it up and there was no fee involved. Initiation of a second batch began during the morning (Indian time) satsangh of August 13th 2012. At the time of this writing there are plans to initiate a third batch around Aug 21st.
For both batches, the entire process involved three levels. In the first level, participants would stay away from food for 2 days. After a break of two days, the second level initiation began and this time participants would refrain from food for 7 days. And finally again after short one or two day break, they enter into third level which lasts for 11 days. There was an overlap in the tail end of 3rd level initiation of the first batch and the first level initiation of the second batch.
Swamiji had given one simple instruction to all participants. If at any time during the process a participant felt hunger related symptoms or lack of energy, they should eat immediately and break the samyama. Hunger related symptoms were an indication that the initiation had not taken effect and consequently, there was no need to spoil your health by trying to persist. Basically, this was neither an exercise in hunger control through will power nor a form of traditional religious fasting where you may be allowed to eat certain types of food or allowed to eat during certain times of the day. No food was allowed other than water and fruit juice in small quantity. Only those who succeeded in completing any particular level would be eligible to continue into the next level.
I took the initiation in the first batch but had to resume eating after 24 hours due to uncontrollable hunger. I enrolled again into the second batch and this time it worked for me. Below I share my experience of going through this process.
Eating habits: Non vegetarian diet with a preference to simple Indian food. For breakfast, usually something quick and light to avoid being on empty stomach. Not addicted to coffee or tea. My lunch was usually around 1pm. I would feel hunger again around 4mp and so would drink something or have a light snack. Dinner would be anytime between 8:30pm and 10pm.
Hunger and its effects: Delaying a meal by a couple of hours would often cause problems. Not eating after the initial feeling of hunger would intensify the symptoms of hunger such as growling in the stomach. Additional delay in eating would eventually lead to headache, acidity, stronger pangs of hunger etc. The thought of food would increasingly dominate the mind. About a year ago (during Shivaratri, an Indian festival), I tried fasting. At the end of the about 24 hours I could not handle the hunger anymore. I tried to manage the hunger by drinking water regularly, but finally had to give up. So I was very limited in my ability to go on a fast.
Medications/supplements: I would normally take a generic multivitamin pill two to three times a week. Not taking the pill for more than about 5 days would normally cause dryness in the scalp. Every morning I would take a small amount of neem juice (neem bark boiled in water). It helped with reducing oiliness in the skin and preventing acne. Symptoms would normally re-appear within two days of stopping neem juice. Prior to the samyama I was also taking medication for pollen allergy every day. Overall I am pretty healthyand don’t have any major health issues.
The Nirahara Samyama process
Nirahara Samyama 1st level (2 days): Swamiji had instructed us to come with full stomachs for the initiation in to the samyama. I was unable to find time to eat anything (after lunch) before getting to the temple at 7pm. So I was a bit worried that I might be get hungry very soon after the initiation was over. The initiation probably ended around 8 or 8:30pm. Didn’t have dinner at the temple and left for home once the satang was over. Later around maybe 9:30pm I realized that I wasn’t hungry as yet. It was a definitely somewhat surprising since by now my stomach should have been really growling and there should have been some headache. I hadn’t eaten anything since around 1pm. I was glad that it hasn’t hit me yet and went to bed, but I didn’t think this was due to the initiation we had just received.
It was next day evening and still there was no sign of hunger. Looking at how my body was effortlessly cruising along without any hunger related problems, I felt as if that I could go on indefinitely without eating. But I also suspected this feeling could be overconfidence on my part, as we were only one day into the process. But Swamiji’s initiation had worked. In retrospect, it seems it must have taken effect within an hour. I noticed a few times that briefly the stomach would feel as if it is empty and then a little later the feeling was gone. I never felt ‘full’ or ‘hungry’.
The key point here is that there was no will power required on my part to manage hunger. Hunger just wasn’t there. At the end of the second day, Swamiji concluded the first phase of the samyama. I was happy, but when something this of this magnitude happens to you suddenly and easily, it is hard to believe. It still is. Swamiji had brought about this remarkable transformation in a few hundred people around the world. And He did it while sitting thousands of miles away in India, using a two way video conferencing system.
Even though things were going very well, it was still too early for me to know if my body would have any negative effects due lack of food.
Nirahara Samyama 2nd level (6 days): Swamiji gives a one day break after the first round. He instructed us to come with full stomachs for the initiation and once again I was unable to do so. But this time it didn’t bother me. Going into the samyama, I was sure I would easily last for 6 days although I would miss not eating all the good food. This time around I wondered more about how my body would handle such a long stretch. I knew I would lose some weight. I wondered if absence of nutrition for such an extended duration would have any negative impacts.
Mental craving for food was not uncommon. It would normally occur an hour or so after meal/snack times. The meditation that Swamiji had given was incredibly helpful to deal with the mental craving. I would sometimes think of the things that would be great to eat during the break that was to follow at the end of the second level. I would have a couple of small bottles/packs (200-300ml each) of some juice or coconut water once or twice a day. It also was useful in handling the craving. Typically I would drink coconut. Drinking plain water seemed insufficient to satisfy the mind, especially since it was summer. My water intake was about the same as I would normally drink.
Each evening I attended Swamiji’s satsang, during which He would have us perform a meditation to support the process. Swamiji had also given some simple meditations to be performed during the day while being engaged in other activities.
For the second batch, this second level concluded at the end of the 6th day instead of the 7th day, due to what appears a counting error.
Nirahara Samyama 3rd level (11 days):
After the 2nd level there was a one day break. During this one day break, about half the usual amount of food left me feeling full. So I was unable to load up on the ‘good stuff’ as I had imagined. Surprisingly, I gained about 3 pounds in this one day in spite of eating relatively little.
When the third level of the samyama began, I felt that the only bit of struggle, if any, during this 11 day stretch would be the management of mental desires towards my favorite food items. Fortunately, the strength of these cravings was significantly weaker this time. I did not find the need for any meditation to manage them. I would normally consume one serving (200-300ml)or two of coconut water or some clear fruit juice each day. Drinking the same kind of drink each day would magnify the effects of that drink on the body. For instance drinking only coconut juice for 3 days would cause runny nose. In order to help understand the effects of the juices, I preferred to drink juices made from a single type of fruit. Around may be the 7th on 8th day, I decided to briefly stop consuming juices as I began to suspect that they all have some amount of undesirable effect. However, a nice side effect of drinking juices was that just a few sips would instantly fix any food related cravings. Juice or no juice, the energy levels were excellent and very consistent throughout the day. There was no sign of any lethargy or drowsiness anytime during the day. No headaches, acidity or any other problems. The third level concluded on August 4th 2012.
During the process:
My body weight reduced from 160 lbs. to 148 lbs. and in normal situations this would be considered an indication of a health problem. Fortunately there were no adverse effects. To my surprise, I noticed many health benefits. On the first day of the second level, I took a multivitamin thinking that even though the body may be receiving energy from the surrounding it would still need the vitamins. There were no signs of any of the expected symptoms in the absence of multivitamins. Similarly I also stopped taking neem juice and skin did not turn oily. Perhaps not very surprising, but due to lack of food, bowel movement had stopped.
All this was good but there was a bigger surprise. I have chronic allergy to pollen and to some foods. The allergic reaction in both cases is sneezing. During the samyama I had also stopped taking the allergy medications and the symptoms had become almost negligible (it was peak allergy season). There were some mild symptoms usually after I drank certain juices. This was a miracle. It started becoming evident to me that on one hand food plays a key role in our sustenance by providing energy and nutrition, on the other hand it is also involved in the breakdown of health. Disease sets in once the body’s self-healing abilities are not sufficient to reverse the break down. The list of the health problems connected with food is long (cancer, diabetes, allergies, heart problems, blood pressure, bone issues, allergies, eye problems, skin problems, obesity and related, acidity and digestion related, migraines & headaches). Are we helplessly eating our way to disease? I wondered if there is truly any such thing as ‘100% healthy food’.
The second level (6 day process) threw light on the two distinct components of hunger: mental and physical. Physical hunger has to do with growling stomach, pangs of hunger, lack of energy etc. Mental hunger is basically a craving for food. For instance, many crave for desert after a meal, or want to eat something as soon as they see it. Suppression of the former can be fatal.
It is unclear to me if the body received its energy supply from the breath, through the pores in the skin, sunlight, ether, or some combination of these. I spend most of my time indoors (at work, playing, temple, driving, home, short walks etc.) So my exposure to sunlight is not much (approx. 15 – 40 mins a day). Regardless of the exact source of energy, one thing is certain, there was no mental or physical tiredness. Energy levels remained solid and consistent throughout the day, unlike when I am on a regular diet which leads to drowsiness after a meal.
My body weight fell from 160 lbs to 148 lbs. Others informed me that I looked slim but not at all weak or sick. I was looked fresher. I have been steadily gaining weight since the end of the samyama by eating regularly. We have not been required to do any kind of practice after the conclusion of the three levels. Once I resumed normal food intake, some of the issues noted previously have come back but are relatively weaker in comparison. There does not seem to be a need for multivitamins any more. The amount of food I am able to eat before feeling full gradually kept increasing and now its back to pre-samyama levels.
Its been 16 days since the process ended and hunger has not bothered me. Once in a while I feel that the stomach is empty. This does not degenerate or strengthen into the typical hunger symptoms. So it is easy to forget to eat. Acidity problems in general are no more. When I think of this profound change that has happened, it sometimes feels like a dream.
Early on, Swamiji had pointed out that the quality of energy that the body gets directly from space is like rocket fuel. Pure and highly refined. In contrast, the kind of food we tend to consume is like pouring drainage water into the body. For many, including myself, the dietary choices are driven by cravings. I sometimes wonder, if even those who are eating very healthy are (in a way) consuming only slightly purified drainage water. Organic matter on digestion must be leaving behind some amount of unwanted stuff which remains in the body until it is ,hopefully, completely expelled.
Swamiji remarked that this initiation was basically a process of transferring some of his bio memory to us. He noted that the key rationale for making this initiation available to us was to enable us to overcome the deeply engrained mental and physical patterns related to food.
As I write this, I am certain that this will evoke some abusive responses or reactions by a few people. Largely rooted in their (understandably strong) belief that the human body is not capable of functioning without food, or rooted in the opinions they may have formed towards Swamiji due to the nature in which the media has handled recent events. It is futile to believe in the possibility/impossibility of this phenomenon or His divinity when it is easy to gain direct experience. A honest mind and being open to idea that this ability also lies latent in your own body will help awaken these possibilities with the right initiation. Diligently attending Swamiji’s daily satsangh during the process (from the nearest center/temple with two way video conferencing facility) is required.
As noted previously, I had enrolled in the first batch, but did not succeed. Had to eat after 24 hours. The initiation took effect when I attempted again as part of the second batch. Like the countless spiritual gifts that Swamiji has made available for free or at low cost, these initiations into Nirahara Samyama also have been free. I am in no position to say whether it will remain free in the future. All I know is that it is priceless. In addition to making these mystical gifts available to people, He works jointly with scientists to help them understand these phenomenon. Science may someday be able describe this phenomenon but I wonder if it will ever be able to transmit this experience using nothing more than an ordinary 2-way video conferencing system.
Each time I remember the blessings I have been fortunate to receive from Swamiji, I am filled with gratitude and increasingly mystified by His divinity.
Here is a video of Swamiji introducing the Nirahara Samyama during initiation.