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