Tuesday, June 30, 2009
by Dr. Mercola
Have you ever wished you didn’t have to bother with eating or preparing food at all? When you stop to consider how many hours you spend thinking about food, planning meals, shopping for fresh produce, preparing and cooking meals, and eating, I would imagine nearly everyone has had this fantasy at least once.
Astonishing as this may seem, one Indian man is doing exactly this: converting the sun’s energy into nourishment, and he believes you can do it too.
Before you read this please understand that I am not advocating gazing into the sun directly but merely reporting on a phenomena that is already occurring. Also it is important to avoid scanning this article. If you scan the material you will think it is ok to gaze at the sun anytime and this is not only inaccurate, but quite dangerous.
Sun gazing is done around dawn or sunset. If you perform it at other hours you can cause serious damage to your retina.
The Practice of Sun Gazing
Sun gazing--also known as solar healing, solargazing, sun staring, Sun Yoga, Surya Yoga and Solar Yoga. All terms refer to the practice of staring directly at the sun in order to receive nourishment, healing and spiritual enlightenment. The gazing is done only during the first hour after sunrise or the last hour before sunset, when the sun’s rays are most gentle to your eye.
Hira Ratan Manek was born in 1937 in Bodhavad, India, and was raised in Calicut, Kerala, India, where he earned his degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Kerala. After graduating, he joined his family’s spice trade business before retiring from that in 1992 to pursue a life-long interest in sun gazing.
Manek states that we have a super computer in our bodies, given to us by nature -- our brain -- which he calls the “brainuter.” He says that sun gazing activates the full potential of your brain, bringing forth “infinite inherent powers” that have remained dormant for millennia.
In order to activate these dormant brain powers, Manek suggests:
Being a holistic entity it needs a holistic power supply. Sun energy is the source that powers the brain, which can enter and leave the human body or the brain only through one organ that is the human eye. Eyes are the Sun Energy’s entry door to the human brain.
Converting solar energy to physical nourishment is not a new phenomenon but the rediscovery of an age-old healing ritual. Sun gazing originated in India more than 2,000 years ago with the teaching of Lord Mahavir of Jain, also known as Mahavira or Vardhamana. Lord Mahavir established Jainism, one of the oldest religions originating on the Indian subcontinent. Jains believe that every soul is divine and has the potential to achieve God-consciousness.
Sun gazing was also practiced by ancient Egyptians, Aztecs, Greeks, Mayans, in Tibetan Yoga and some traditions of Qigong, Tai Chi, and by some Native American tribes.
Hira Ratan Manek
Hira Ratan Manek[ii] who prefers the simple nickname HRM, states that the sun can be used to heal the mind, body and spirit. As a result of sun gazing, he claims to have better physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.
Perhaps the most startling claim HRM makes is that, since he became a devoted sun gazer, he has been able to sustain himself on solar energy alone for very long periods, without eating any food. Somewhere along the line, this became known as the “HRM phenomenon.”[iii]
He claims he has been living on sun energy and water alone since June 18, 1995, with only occasional tea, coffee and buttermilk for “hospitality and social purposes.” He has also undergone three strict long-term fastings, during which he was under the control and observation of various scientific and medical teams.
The first fast lasted 211 days in 1995-96, in Calicut, India, and was directed by Dr. C.K. Ramachandran, a medical expert on allopathic and ayurvedic medicine. This was followed by a second fast lasting 411 days in Ahmedabad, India, directed by an international team of 21 doctors and scientists, led by Dr. Sudhir Shah.
The third observed fasting was in the United States, where he was observed by a team at Thomas Jefferson University and the University of Philadelphia for 130 days. The specific focus of this observation was his retina, pineal gland and brain, and the team was led by Dr. Andrew B. Newberg, and Dr. George C. Brainard, a leading authority on the pineal gland.
Their findings were unexpected.
HRM claims they discovered his brain’s gray cells were regenerating and that his pineal gland was expanding, rather than the shrinking that is typical after the mid-fifties.
Since 2002, Manek has given hundreds of lectures all over the world and has been the subject of many articles, interviews, and even a film. In 2002, he established the Solar Healing Center, with headquarters in Orlando, Florida. There are now Solar Healing Centers all over the world, as well as over thousands of enthusiastic sun gazing followers.
The Sun Gazing Process
HRM has developed a method for sun gazing, based on years of study, and trial and error. He states it can be accomplished by anyone, in any part of the world, at any time of the year. Sun gazing is a one-time practice that takes 9 months to complete. It is generally broken into three phases:
1. First 3 months
2. 3-6 months
3. 6-9 months
After the 9 months, there is a life-long regimen of “bare foot walking” on earth soil for 45 minutes a day, and the more you stick to this regimen, the more your body will be “recharged.” More about this later.
First Three Months
Manek instructs sun gazers to begin their sun gazing journey by spending a maximum of 10 seconds on the first day looking directly into the sun during the safe hours, which are defined as within one hour after sunrise or within one hour of sunset. While sun gazing, it is important if possible to stand on warm, bare earth. This helps to ground you and enhances the sun gazing benefits.
On the second day, look for 20 seconds. Add 10 additional seconds every day thereafter. So, after 10 days, you will be looking at the sun for 100 seconds (e.g., one minute and 40 seconds).
In this first phase, it is common for people to begin experiencing a more positive mindset, less negativity, more confidence, more compassion, and less fear.
Three to Six Months
At the end of three months, your gazing time will be about 15 minutes. This is the period during which many people begin to find their physical diseases subsiding.
HRM also states that 70-80 percent of the energy synthesized from food is used by your brain to “fuel tensions and worries”, and after three months, these tensions go away, leaving this newly freed energy available for more productive use. You might also find your need for food decreasing.
When you reach 30 minutes duration, he states you will be “slowly liberated from physical disease” since, by then, your organs are all receiving their needed Prana[iv], or life energy, directly from the sun.
Your body needs energy, not necessarily food. Food is actually our “secondary energy source,” according to HRM. The human body does not convert sunlight into energy in the same way plants do, with chlorophyll, but through a different photosynthesis process, like a photovoltaic cell.
“You are your own master at the end of 6 months.”
Six to Nine Months
After 6 months, you will start to utilize the original form of “micro food,” which comes from the sun. This has the additional benefit of having no toxic waste attached to it.
At around 7.5 months, or 35 minutes per day of sun gazing, you can expect your hunger to start decreasing appreciably. Hunger results from the energy requirements of your body, which is a must for your existence. Conventionally, you are getting the sun energy indirectly by eating foods that are a by-product of sun energy. Now, you are getting the energy directly.
Between 8 and 9 months (44 minutes), HRM says you can expect your hunger to be pretty much gone. If it isn’t, he says it is because you don’t have enough belief in the process, and it will take you a little longer, but it is still achievable.
More importantly, at this stage, your energy levels are very high and you will have a very deep sense of well-being.
After Nine Months
After nine months, you should discontinue solar gazing for the sake of eye care--your eyes have reached the limits of what they can safely take. However, your body will eventually become “discharged,” kind of like a battery, and must be recharged.
Recharging is accomplished by walking bare-foot, on bare earth, preferably in the sun, since the bare earth contains a great deal of sun energy.
This works, HRM explains, because the act of walking stimulates your pineal gland. As is described in reflexology[v] your foot is a microcosm of your entire body, and your big toe is connected with your pineal gland. The other toes are connected to the other major glands of your body. More information about the pineal gland will be presented in a following section.
The recommended walking schedule is, walk for 6 consecutive days once you have completed your nine months of sun gazing, for 45 minutes per day. Just walk at a relaxed pace--no need to walk briskly or jog.
Then, walk regularly (he doesn’t give a minimum or maximum) for a year, always for 45 minutes. After a year of “recharging,” if you are satisfied with how you feel, you can discontinue bare foot walking. But if you want to strengthen your immune system, memory, intelligence, etc., then continue the walking.
He also mentions that many other mental and spiritual benefits are possible during this time, such as new psychic abilities, a built-in “navigational” system, and higher levels of brain activity. He states:
“Almost all problems get solved.”
For more detailed instructions, please refer to his website.
The Pineal Gland
The pineal gland[vi] [vii](also called the pineal body, epiphysis cerebri, or epiphysis) is a small endocrine gland in your brain, about the size of a pea. It produces melatonin, a hormone that influences your wake/sleep patterns and photoperiodic (seasonal) functions. It is shaped like a tiny pine cone (hence its name), and is located near the center of your brain, tucked into a groove between the two hemispheres.
The pineal gland was the last gland to have its function discovered. Its long status as the “mystery gland” caused it to be shrouded in myth, superstition and the object of numerous metaphysical theories about its function.
The pineal gland is associated with the sixth chakra, also called Ajna or the “third eye” in yoga, and is considered to be the seat of “inner wisdom.” It is believed by many to be a dormant organ that, when activated, awakens psychic abilities. Some consider it to be where consciousness resides in your body. Rene Descartes devoted a great deal of his life to its study and called the gland “the seat of the soul[viii].”
Interestingly, the gland is activated by light. Light reaches it by passing into your eyes, then along a pathway from your retina to your hypothalamus called the retinohypothalamic tract, then along nerve pathways to your pineal gland.
Light impulses inhibit the production of melatonin, and at night when it is dark, pineal inhibition ceases, and melatonin is released. Therefore, the pineal gland is an important timekeeper for your body. Melatonin is also produced during visualization and relaxation.
How is the pineal gland associated with sun gazing?
According to Dr. Sudhir Shah:
The hypothalamus is the commander of autonomic nervous system, and the pineal gland is in proximity to the autonomic nervous system, so it is logical that new energy transportation may either activate this system or it may use this system as vehicle.
HRM believes that the light energy you take in while sun gazing activates your dormant pineal gland, which then turns your “brainuter” on. It is this activation that causes you to experience the magical conversion of sun energy into nutrition, healing of disease, heightened energy, increased psychic abilities and, ultimately, enlightenment.
Looking at Sun Gazing With a Skeptical Eye
Is sun gazing really safe?
Sun gazing is highly controversial due to the considerable evidence which states that looking directly at the sun can be damaging to your eyes. Solar retinopathy[ix] [x] is a form of damage to the retina from solar radiation, usually seen in those who look directly at the sun during a solar eclipse. Although vision loss due to the sun is generally reversible, permanent damage and loss of vision have been reported.
But how much of a danger is sun gazing, if practiced within the established safety guidelines?
Most eye care professionals will advise you against looking directly at the sun, during solar eclipses and otherwise. However, there seems to be a multitude of sun gazers out there who are carefully following “safe” sun gazing guidelines, without any real horror stories about visual damage or blindness.
So, who is right?
Since so many people appear to be successfully engaged in this practice and are reporting benefits, perhaps there is some validity to sun gazing, provided it is done with an appropriate measure of caution in order to minimize the risk to your eyes.
Astronomer Andrew T. Young[xi] wrote an article about the history of solar retinal injuries, exploring fact versus folktale. He states there is ample evidence in the literature that the normal human eye is able to look briefly at the sun without harm. He uses the statistical distribution of solar injuries as evidence for the safety of sun gazing:
…The near-total eclipses at which eye injury occasionally occurs are visible only a few minutes per century at any given location on Earth; the unobscured Sun is available for viewing every clear day. If we suppose the Sun is up (on the average) for 12 hours a day, that's about 440,000 hours or over 26 million minutes per century that the Sun is up outside of eclipse, compared to a few minutes of dangerous time near totality.
So you'd expect eye injuries from unprotected Sun-viewing to be roughly a million times more common than injuries during eclipses.
However, what we find is that the vast majority of solar retinal injuries occur as a result of viewing a solar eclipse without adequate protection because the pupil is opened up, allowing very high levels of UV to penetrate in a short time.
There are impressively few reports of any such injuries from non-eclipse sun gazing. And even eclipse-viewing injuries are relatively uncommon.
Dr. Young’s conclusion…
The potential for serious eye damage from sun gazing at sunrise or sunset is small; about the only way you could seriously damage yourself would be to stare at the full sun at high noon while your pupils were dilated by some kind of drug. (Quite a variety of nasal decongestants and other common drugs, as well as exposure to some pesticides, have been reported to dilate the pupils.)
Vinny Pinto of the Raw Paleolithic Diet website[xii], who has done a tremendous amount of research in the area of sun gazing and is a sun gazer himself, writes:
There is definitely some potential danger to staring at the sun for any significant length of time anytime after a couple of hours after sunrise or a couple of hours before sunset, and particularly at high noon and during early afternoon, but even then the harm would likely be minor or temporary. There is also some significant danger from staring at an eclipse for even a short length of time, since the pupil may be tricked by the apparent low light intensity into allowing too great an influx of solar radiation at harmful wavelengths into the eye.
It is also worth mentioning that the urban legends about several students going blind in the 1960s while tripping out on LSD[xiii] [xiv] and staring at the sun were nothing but a hoax designed to scare kids into avoiding drugs.
Have the Claims of Hira Ratan Manek Been Substantiated?
Currently, there exists no solid scientific proof that sun gazing actually works in the manner that the “sun gazing gurus” claim, nor is there solid proof to the contrary. The sun gazing community is enthusiastically awaiting rigorous and definitive scientific studies on sun gazing to resolve the matter.
But until those come forth, the best you can do is to review the data yourself, and follow your gut.
Dr. Sudhir Shah[xv], a neurologist who led the 21-physician team that evaluated and monitored HRM during his 411-day water-and-solar-energy fast, publicized his conclusions and theories about how HRM can subsist on sunlight. He posited that HRM sustains himself based on four key factors/processes:
1. Reducing calorie requirement by chronic adaptation
2. Deriving basic energy from sun energy
3. Utilizing the energy in an efficient way, and recycling it in his body
4. Possessing a genetically or phenotypically different body disposition
He goes into great detail about each factor in his theoretical summary, which you can read in his online report.
Dr. Shah concludes that the sun gazing phenomenon is genuine, stating, “It’s just fantastic, and absolutely amazing, but this is not a myth.”
A glowing article[xvi] in support of HRM was written by Dr. Maurie D. Pressman, a Holistic-Spiritual Psychoanalyst and Director of the Pressman Center for Mind/Body Wellness in Philadelphia. Dr. Pressman states he spent a good deal of “personal time” with HRM and believes he is one of the “realized beings among us.”
He describes how struck he was with how HRM’s body looked--very slender, graceful, and firm--not emaciated at all. He was also impressed with his quiet, self-assured manner.
Other reports are not so glowing.
In 2003, when trying to confirm reports that NASA had invited HRM for study[xvii], Jan Steinar Haugland[xviii] received a response from NASA spokesperson Dolores Beasley saying she had no idea why reports had claimed that NASA had invited Manek. She went on to say that they have no record of his being involved with them. She also checked all offices doing related research at centers such as Johnson, Marshall, and Ames.
Doctors who were supposedly wowed by HRM’s performance in the United States seem less than eager to publicly express their praise.
The third “observed” fast lasting 130 days was supposedly performed in Philadelphia, PA, under the direction of Dr. Andrew Newberg[xix] and Dr. George Brainard[xx]. However, contact with Dr. Newberg apparently revealed that Manek was only studied for “brain scans of meditation” at the University of Pennsylvania, not for his ability to fast indefinitely.
Dr. Newberg also denied ever undertaking the 130-day study, according to Wikipedia.
I emailed HRM himself and asked if he could shed some light on this conflicting information. He responded promptly, stating:
When an experience of a person becomes reproducible, it becomes a science. Sun gazing is not for non-eating. It is for health of mind, body and spirit…
…The media sometimes reports things in haste, I have never said anything about NASA. Those who believe, they do it, and those who do not believe--to them, any amount of explanation won’t work.
So, you will have to decide for yourself as to the validity of the claims of Hira Ratan Manek, and other sun gazers. What can be found easily are many reports from people who have been utilizing his sun gazing protocol to their benefit, without any negative consequences.
In fact, the very ambitious Vinny Pinto has posted online the results of his First Sungazing List Group Sungazer’s Survey[xxi]. Results are encouraging for those of you who are bold enough to consider trying out this esoteric practice. His major findings were:
Health improvements were reported, especially among women.
Persons who had sun gazed for at least a year, at least 4 times per week, were far more likely to report a decreased need for solid food.
Persons who had sun gazed for more than five years and who gazed near mid-day were more likely to report adverse effects.
35 of the 51 participants reported “increased or greatly increased energy” while only 1 participant reported reduced energy.
The number of people who reported a “decreased need for solid food” was approximately equal to the number of people who reported “no significant change in need for food.” Only 1 person reported an increased need.
The most common physical/mental/spiritual experiences reported from sun gazing were bliss/joy and peace/calm.
Not one person reported a decrease in physical health. All participants reported their health was the same or improved.
When asked how scientific his survey was, Pinto stated it was “not rigorously scientific, but a useful tool.”
That said, he describes himself as a degreed scientist and statistician who has trained others in statistical methodology, stating he made the study as scientific as he could, within his time and financial constraints. Therefore, it is probably a pretty good representation of the sun gazing population.
Just how sun gazing works remains a mystery, but the same can be said of many esoteric practices, such as acupuncture and Qigong, which have been around for millennia and survived the test of time. One would expect these things to fall by the wayside if they offered no benefits at all.
Sun gazing appears to be gaining momentum in this country, as more complementary health practices are gaining acceptance by the public. If we always demand an explanation for how something works before trying it, we might be cheating ourselves out of some great tools that can provide benefit.
One fairly comprehensive resource is a book called Living on Sunlight[xxii] by Vina Parma, MBA. It is available for FREE download here.
I recommend that you read multiple sources of information before diving in, if sun gazing is something you decide you want to explore. At least then, you will be embarking on the journey with your eyes wide open.
[ii] Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hira_Manek
[iii] Solar Healing Center: The official site for Hira Ratan Manek, http://www.solarhealing.com/
[iv] Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prana
[v] Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reflexology
[vi] Crystal’s Metaphysical and Science Website, Third Eye – Pineal Gland, http://www.crystalinks.com/thirdeyepineal.html (Accessed December 15, 2008)
[vii] Encyclopedia Britannica online, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/460967/pineal-gland
[viii] Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Descartes and the pineal gland, http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pineal-gland/ (Accessed December 15, 2008)
[ix] Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_retinopathy
[x] Chen JC and Lee LR, Clinical and Experimental Optometry, http://www.optometrists.asn.au/ceo/backissues/vol87/no6/3618 (Accessed December 15, 2008)
[xi] Galileo, solar observing and eye safety, http://mintaka.sdsu.edu/GF/vision/Galileo.html (Accessed December 15, 2008)
[xii] Pinto V, Raw Paleolithic Diet Website, http://www.rawpaleodiet.org/ (Accessed December 15, 2008)
[xiii] Snopes.com, http://www.snopes.com/horrors/drugs/lsdsun.asp
[xiv] Another LSD hallucination, Time Magazine online, January 26, 1968, http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,837763,00.html
[xv] Shah S, http://home.iae.nl/users/lightnet/health/lightresearch.htm
[xvi] Pressman MD, Realized beings among us, The Monthly Aspectarian, http://www.lightworks.com/MonthlyAspectarian/2002/August/pressman.htm (Accessed December 15, 2008)
[xvii] NASA to study man who survives on liquids and sunlight, June 20, 2003, Space Travel Exploration and Tourism, http://www.space-travel.com/reports/NASA_To_Study_Man_Who_Survives_On_Liquids_And_Sunlight.html
[xviii] Haugland JS, Secular Blasphemy, July 2003, http://blogs.salon.com/0001561/2003/07/05.html (Accessed December 15, 2008)
[xix] Newberg A, website of, http://www.andrewnewberg.com/
[xx] Thomas Jefferson University website, faculty page, http://www.jefferson.edu/facint/details.cfm?key=gxb116 (Accessed December 15, 2008)
[xxi] Pinto V, Raw Paleolithic Diet website, http://www.rawpaleodiet.org/sungazing/
[xxii] Parma V, Living on Sunlight: The Art and Science of Sun Gazing as taught by Hira Ratan Manek, HRM 2nd Ed. December 2004 e-book http://www.fourwinds10.com/resources/uploads/pdf/Hira%20Ratan%20Manek%20-%20Living%20on%20Sunlight.pdf