Man shall not live by bread alone

The words of Christ: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4) have deep meaning to those who practice Yoga. The “word of God” here indicates that the Divine Being has manifested the world using etheric vibrations and all these vibrations are akin to words coming from the mouth of God.

As a result of spiritual realization, the Yogin is able to reduce the intake or even forego food and instead live on Prana – the cosmic energy which pervades the Universe. This is the deeper truth behind those words of Christ. These are some selections from various texts on the same topic.

Sri Aurobindo on how his eating habits changed

Disciple : What is the effect of fasting on yoga.
Sri Aurobindo : It gives a sort of excitement or an impetus to the vital being but the general effect does not seem to be sound or healthy. I fasted twice : once in Alipore jail for ten days and another time in Pondicherry for twenty-three days.

At Alipore I was in full yogic activities and I was not taking my food, and was throwing it away in the bucket. Of course, the Superintendent did not know it, only two warders knew about it and they informed others saying : “The gentleman must be ill; he will not live long”. Though my physical strength was diminishing I was able to raise a pail of water above my head which I could not do ordinarily.

At Pondicherry while fasting I was in full mental and vital vigour. I was even walking eight hours a day and not feeling tired at all, and when I broke the fast I did not begin slowly but with the usual normal food.

Disciple : How is it possible to have such energy without food?
Sri Aurobindo : One draws the energy from the vital plane instead of depending upon physical substance.

(Purani, Evening Talks, 4th Jan, 1939)

Ramakrishna Paramahansa

Narendra: “As regards food, one should take whatever comes.”

Ramakrishna: “What you say applies only to a particular state of the aspirant’s mind. No food can harm a Jnāni(Enlightened One). According to the Gitā, the Jnāni himself does not eat; his eating is an offering to the Kundalini.

Gospel of Ramakrishna

The Bhagavad Gita

The Gita in Chapter 18, Verse 52 denotes this state of decreased food consumption with the term laghvasin (light-eating).

The verses 18:52-54



buddhya visuddhaya yukto
dhrtyatmanam niyamya ca
sabdadin visayams tyaktva raga-dvesau vyudasya ca

vivikta-sevi laghv-asi
dhyana-yoga-paro nityam vairagyam samupasritah

ahankaram balam darpam
kamam krodham parigraham
vimucya nirmamah santo brahma-bhuyaya kalpate

Meaning: Being purified by his intelligence and controlling the mind with determination, giving up the objects of sense gratification, being freed from attachment and hatred, one who lives in a secluded place, who eats little and who controls the body and the tongue, and is always in trance and is detached, who is without false ego, false strength, false pride, lust, anger, and who does not accept material things, such a person is certainly elevated to the position of self-realization.

Paramahansa Yogananda

Yogananda: “Your sacred life is a daily demonstration of the truth uttered by Christ: ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.'”

Again she (Therese Neumann) showed joy at my explanation. “It is indeed so. One of the reasons I am here on earth today is to prove that man can live by God’s invisible light, and not by food only.”

(Paramahansa Yogananda, Autobiography of a Yogi, Chapter 39)

Laghima – Body becomes lighter than air

The Yogin who has progressed further is also able to manifest the state of Laghima where the body becomes lighter than air. The Mother discusses this aspect in a conversation:

According to Sri Aurobindo, this true movement behind respiration is the same as the one governing electrical and magnetic fields; it is what the ancient yogis used to call Vayu, the Life-Energy. The breathing exercises (prānāyama) are simply one system (among others) for acquiring mastery over Vayu which eventually enables you to be free from gravitation and gives certain powers known to the ancients: the power to be extremely light or extremely heavy, very big or very tine (garimā, laghimā, mahimā, animā).

The Mother, Questions and Answers (1953): 20 May 1953

See Also

  1. Inedia (the ability to live without food)
  2. Sadhu Haridas, the Yogi who survived after being buried underground for forty days. Also here
  3. Prahlad Jani

11 thoughts on “Man shall not live by bread alone

  1. Pingback: How to eat like a Yogi « Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo & The Mother

  2. Sandeep Post author

    In the his diary of practice Record of Yoga, Sri Aurobindo has noted why the food digestion cycle changes in a self-realized Yogi.

    Jan 27, 1913: There has been no parthiva visrishti (solid waste discharge), except nominal & infinitesimal relief, for these seven days, and it is now clear that this visrishti (waste discharge) is no longer a physical necessity, but a habit kept in survival by the imperfect speed and still faulty method of the assimilation which, instead of drawing the food at once into the akash by the power of the mukhyaprana, recurs partially to the old panchabhauta (five elements) absorption & therefore leaves a deposit which has to be dematerialised, or else produces symptoms of tejasic(fiery) & jalamaya(watery) irregularity before it completes its process.

    Sri Aurobindo, Record of Yoga – I: 27 January 1913

    The phrase “instead of drawing the food at once into the akash by the power of the mukhyaprana” above is significant, because it implies that the food ingested can be directly turned into akash (ether) via the power of Mukhya Prana (central life-force)

  3. Pingback: Sufi anecdotes and stories | Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo & The Mother

  4. Sandeep Post author

    “In the Beginning there was light” is a 2010 documentary on people who live solely by light (no food) by P.A. Straubinger. One of the people in this movie, Hira Ratan Manek, claims that the Mother of Pondicherry told him in 1962 “You must bring down the sun’s energy to the earth, in order to help the Supermind to descend upon humanity.”

    English trailer of the movie called “In the Beginning there was light”

    The Spanish full length version called “Vivir de la Luz ”

    French trailer

    German description

    English description

    1. nizken

      Hi, is there an english version or english subtitles to this docu “In the Beginning There Was Light?” I haven’t been able to find this movie except in German….I’d be delighted to be be able to download and see an english subtitled version of it.

  5. mike

    Yeah, l remember reading an interview on breatharianism with a woman called Robin Adams. Here’s a quoite from the process she used and the link to the page:

    “Day 4. The first day of the etheric operations. Now what happened on the other level was these Beings came – and I could actually see what was happening … and I don’t know how many people can actually see these.

    The soul has left the body and you know that it is going on a journey. It’s standing aside as your body is being reprogrammed. Four ‘Light Beings’ came, I think two were green. They erected a white filmy tent and put an operating table in it. They put my etheric body on it and started operating on it.

    Now, on the first day of the etheric operation. Implants were inserted to enable me to become a Being of the next dimension. I have agreed to do so only on the understanding that this is all. I have no wish for ET’s taking me over – I have to surrender in faith and trust but my over lighting guardians are with me at all times. I feel safe and protected although a bit concerned at the appearance I glimpsed of one of the team.

    S: What did they look like?

    R: Two were tall Light Beings and the two who were the main surgeons were very strange, I think they were green, I can’t quite remember.

    The Light Beings were tall, elegant Beings of light – of human shape with beautiful eyes. The operators didn’t look like gnomes, but more like you might imagine a Martian to look.”

    1. Sandeep Post author

      This seems like an an overly complicated process – surgeons operating on etheric body! I have serious doubts about her story. I am even skeptical of Hira Ram Manek’s claim that his sun-gazing was inspired by the Mother.

      You don’t need the supramental to live without food. All you need is to energize the body using what the Upanishads call the Mukhya-Prana (central life-force).

      Yogananda talks about it in two chapters in the Autobiography of a Yogi
      Therese Neumann:
      Giri Bala:

  6. mike

    “I am even skeptical of Hira Ram Manek’s claim that his sun-gazing was inspired by the Mother.”

    Yes, l’m dubious about the whole thing too. lt might be possible through these etheric surgeons, but who and what are they?. lt wouldn’t feel right to put myself at the disposal of beings l know nothing about. Sounds dangerous to me as well.

  7. mike

    lve never seen anything by the Mother suggesting that sun-gazing stuff, either. lt doesn’t feel right to me.

  8. Sandeep Post author

    Sri Aurobindo made the following observations on 13th November 1909 in the Karmayogin journal that he used to write on the case of an ascetic who had survived after burying himself underground:

    The Deoghar Sadhu

    Recently some of the Bengali papers have contained detailed information of the feat of a Sadhu who buried himself for some days not, as in the well-known Punjab case, giving up his outward consciousness and entering into the jada samadhi or inert inner existence, but in full possession of his outer senses and conversing at times from his living tomb with visitors outside. The correspondent of the Bengalee (newspaper) tells us that the local people were dissatisfied with the Sadhu because the peculiar power he evinced was unattended by any moral elevation or true ascetic qualities. It is a general delusion that the power thus shown is a very great and almost supernatural siddhi and ought to be in the possession only of very highly developed souls. A false Indian tradition is partly responsible for the error; partly, it is due to the supreme ignorance of the deeper secrets of our being which belongs to the limited and self-satisfied materialistic Science of Europe now dominant in our midst. There is nothing wonderful in the feat of the Deoghar Sadhu, which was the result of the conquest of the breath, pranayam, achieved by certain physical and mental processes and not necessarily dependent on moral or spiritual progress. The kumbhak or retention of the prana, dispensing with the process of inbreathing and outbreathing, is the final achievement of the process and the kumbhak can, when thoroughly conquered, be continued for an indefinite period. Given the power of kumbhak, it is obvious that one can stay under water or earth or in a room hermetically sealed for as long as the state continues. The power of stopping the heartbeats, dispensing with the process of breathing, and other of the outworks of Yogic knowledge and achievement are being slowly established in order to break down the exclusive pride of European Science and prepare for a new order of knowledge and a greater science to which its dogmatic narrowness is bitterly and scornfully opposed.

    (Karmayogin, SABCL vol 2, pp 265-266)


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