Enjoying our daily meals day after day has made many of us forget the pangs of hunger, for we pamper our taste buds with delectable delicacies of our choice, more often than needed. The very thought of not getting our routine meals for nine whole days creates a ruffle in the minds of most of us, a few almost feel threatened!
Hard to digest, but remember what Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” Paramhansa Yogananda has explained the truth hidden in these words by saying that there are two points of entry through which we draw energy into the body: our physical mouths that enable us to eat material food and the medulla oblongata, the ‘mouth of God’ located at the base of the brain, through which the cosmic energy or the life force enters directly into the body from the surrounding cosmos.
It is the life force which truly sustains us as it constitutes the ‘pranas’ that control all body functions, though at a very subtle level. These pranas enter our body through the different foods we eat or find way through the medulla oblongata supplying necessary nutrition to our body.
Harnessing the cosmic energy consciously for meeting the body’s needs has been demonstrated by many saints.Therese Neumann of Germany lived for many years without eating any food. The Indian non-eating saint, Giri Bala, was known to have lived without food or drink for over fifty years! Yoganandaji had met both these saints and written about their lives in his book, Autobiography of a Yogi. These stunning stories amply prove that God’s Light can alone sustain the human body, as by spiritual advancement one can realize one’s Divine status and learn to live without food.
Living on God’s Light alone surely appears to be a miracle but undoubtedly, observing a specific diet plan is possible, though it may not include many foods of our choice. Yoganandaji’s nine-day cleansing and revitalizing diet is, for sure, a great way to detoxify the body but more than that it is a test of ‘titiksha’ or even-minded endurance for the journey is arduous and teaches many lessons as one walks through it.
Journey Through the Nine-Days
As the word of doing the nine-day diet began to spread among the devotees of Ananda, NCR, it was astonishing that more than 25 people joined hands for this remarkable ritual of cleansing that was planned to overlap the nine auspicious days of Navratras in the autumn of 2019.
Having done twice earlier, with memory of some very challenging moments still alive, I was slightly reluctant but this initial resistance was thwarted by the loving demand of my daughter,also a kriyaban, to embark upon this nine-day journey with her. Beset with sudden impending sacrifice of demands of the palate, I mustered up all strength to get ready first mentally and then, hurried to the big stores in Noida from where the grapefruits, a big orange-coloured fruit, an important ingredient of this diet could be procured. Spinach, parsley, celery, carrots,broccoli, tomatoes, cauliflower, cabbage, cucumbers, beetroot and gourd were the assortment of vegetables, along with a huge quantity of oranges, that I purchased all in one go for these constitute the staple ingredients of the diet for nine days.
Frankly, there is a lot to eat, though not quite in tune with what the palate likes! The Nine-Day Regimen comprises the daily intake of 1 ½ grapefruits, 1 ½ lemons, 5 oranges, 1 cooked vegetable along with its watery content (any amount), 1 raw vegetable salad, 3 cups of Vitality Beverage and 1 glass orange juice with ½ -1 tsp. of senna leaves at bedtime.
To be in gear, I prepared the broth or the vitality beverage first thing every morning and kept all veggies and fruits in order. Laden with fiber, vitamins and antioxidants, the vitality beverage includes, for a single person, 2 stalks of celery, 5 carrots, 1 bunch of parsley, ½ quart (3 cups or 500 gms) of spinach and 1 quart (about 1 litre) of water. No salt or spices are added. There are two recipes to prepare the broth. In the first recipe, that is preferred, these vegetables are all chopped finely, boiled and strained by squeezing through a cheesecloth (I used the commonly available tea strainer). In the second option, the same vegetables are not cooked but juiced by putting them through a vegetable juicer. One cup of this so-formed broth or vitality beverage is taken thrice a day.
Although the daily foods to be taken are fixed, the choice of meal plan is flexible and one can exercise one’s creativity in deciding the menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I preferred to start the day with a cup of broth and a plate of fresh, colourful salad comprising a portion of cucumber, beetroot, carrot and tomato. For lunch, a grapefruit, two or more oranges and a cup of broth sufficed. For dinner, a mix of boiled vegetables, normally a combination of broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage with tomatoes and lemon juice satiated my hunger,to keep me rested through the night. Not to forget, a third cup of broth is also taken. But that’s not all.
Later in the evening, the remaining oranges along with a glass of orange juice containing ½ tsp. of senna leaves rather made me feel full up to the brim. So much to eat, I wondered, and still for many the hunger for other foods remains!To top it all, Yoganandaji has taken utmost care to curb the hunger pangs by prescribing an additional nourishment as one can even take a tablespoonful of grounded nuts in an extra glass of orange juice, if needed.A wonderful practice during this nine-day cleansing diet is to use two pounds of some good bath salts in one-fourth tub of warm water for a bath every night just before going to bed.
The group inspiration is a tremendous booster to continue this diet for nine days as everyone in the group shares his/her experiences which helps the whole group to learn how to cope with different challenges faced by the dieters. Some interesting points to remember are that daily exposure to sunlight, especially the morning sun, with awareness of absorbing the vital
sun rays greatly helps in lifting up our energy levels besides doing the Energization Exercises twice a day to consciously direct the cosmic energy into different body parts and even the practice of some yoga postures and breathing exercises or pranayama like even-counted breathing helps in deep relaxation.
The Wonder of Will Power
Relinquishing the desires of the palate is a big achievement of this diet. This happens only through the exercise of our will power to practice the Niyama: Austerity, which is contentment in action. Paramhansa Yogananda has said that, “Will is the operator of the switch that controls the flow of energy into the body.”He has unveiled the wonder of will power in drawing energy consciously into the body. How eagerly we do things, even tiring and time-consuming, if they are of our interest. Isn’t’ it? “The greater the will,” Master said, “the greater the flow of energy.” The Energization Exercises taught by him are a proof that we can direct the cosmic energy, entering the medulla oblongata, to different parts of our body with the power of will.
Journeying through the nine-day diet with interest and willingness is the key, as then one is able to draw unceasingly from the reservoir of cosmic power. The cosmic energy is converted into life force by the power of will. Different degrees of will power develop corresponding degrees of our response to various challenges.Yes, I faced a tremendous challenge, the craving for my morning cup of tulsi-ginger tea on the first few days of the diet but, astonishingly, I could let go off this dependence by strengthening my inner resolve to ‘willingly’ accept what Master has given us to eat during these nine days. Inwardly, I knew and believed that Master was showering His blessings, a great solace indeed!
Holding the will power to continue the regimen of this diet, day after day, for nine days cultivates an attitude of surrender to a higher call than appeasing our ego-driven tongue’s demands for ‘tasty’ foods.What finally develops in us, like a blooming flower, an outcome of following this diet till the end is our ‘even-minded endurance’ or Titiksha that is an important quality to stay aloof from the ups and downs of the waves of delusion.As we complete the nine days of this diet, and pass the test of Titiksha, we realize the transitory nature of the so-called pleasure-some things, be they those satisfying our palate or the many material possessions that we hold on to so dearly like clothes, cars, homes, gadgets and the list is endless, not excluding, of course, the human relationships we hold so important in our life.
The Guru Disciplines Us
Yoganandaji had bestowed upon Dr Lewis, his first disciple in America, the experience of seeing the great Light at the spiritual eye right in their very first meeting. Then Master told him, “If you allow me to discipline you, and follow regularly the path I lay down, these things will be with you always.” The nine-day diet is one of the tools by which the Master disciplines us enabling our spiritual growth. Surrendering our will to the wisdom guided will of the Guru is the key.This happens only through attunement with the Guru’s consciousness, as then He gives His Power to sail across the nine days of this diet and beyond by changing our consciousness.
As we learn to relinquish things of this world that we like, we severe the bonds of desires and attachments that are limiting to our spiritual progress. While slowly getting back to the normal diet after completion of nine days, it is important to introspect as to how the Guru has changed us through His discipline of practicing this diet. As the Guru knows where a disciple stands on his/ her spiritual journey, His guidance is unique to every disciple.
Pushing Beyond Limits
As we control our urge to eat and drink things of choice, we learn to walk the extra mile, pushing ourselves beyond limits, that brings many positive changes in our body and mind. For example, at the physical level, there is weight loss that may range from a few grams to even 3-5 kgs. I usually lose about 2 kgs, at the end of nine days, that makes me feel better as the extra kilos are shed. At the mental level, there is an experience of deep calmness that almost becomes a part of our nature.The body and mind naturally heal, at a subtle level, changing our consciousness that causes, by Master’s grace,a big spiritual leap…all because we have learned our lesson of Titiksha!