No, not the Jains!

A curious phenomenon has struck me a few times: in response to my criticisms of religion, someone will bring up the Jains. It’s a peaceful religion, they’ll say, that promotes kindness to all living beings, therefore my arguments are all invalid. Even more strangely, every time this happens, my interlocutor is not a Jain, which always leaves me wondering why, if this faith is so wonderful, they haven’t converted. Besides, my main gripe with religion isn’t that it makes people evil (the overwhelming majority of believers, whether Christian, Muslim, or whatever, are peaceable, cooperative, normal human beings), but that it’s a petrified clown turd of foolishness that convinces people that it’s OK to be a credulous git.

And Jainism is no exception.

Prahlad Jani, the Indian fakir who claims to live on nothing but air and sunshine, is a transparent fraud with gullible friends in a high places. Indian skeptics have found obvious flaws in the ‘testing’ that has been going on.

While the test was running, I exposed some of those loopholes in a live programme on India TV: an official video clip revealed that Jani would sometimes move out of the CCTV camera’s field of view; he was allowed to receive devotees and could even leave the sealed test room for a sun bath; his regular gargling and bathing activities were not sufficiently monitored and so on. I demanded an opportunity to check the test set-up with an independent team of rationalist experts. There was no immediate reaction from Ahmadabad. But a sudden call from Sterling hospital invited me – live on TV – to join the test the next day itself.

Early morning, ready to fly to Gujarat, we were informed that we had to wait for the permission of the “top boss” of the project. Needless to say: this permission never came.

Similarly, we were unable to attend Shah’s first Jani test in November 2003 (that was financed by Dipas too). Shah has a long record of conducting these studies, which up till now have never been discussed in any scientific journal. They merely try to prove his strange sunshine theory: that humans can stop eating and drinking and switch to “other energy sources, sunlight being one”. Prahlad Jani is not Shah’s first poster child. In 2000/2001, he tested one Hira Manek for more than a year and confirmed his claim that he was feeding on sunshine only (and sometimes a little water). The idea that Shah’s research was investigated by Nasa and the University of Pennsylvania was officially denied by both the misrepresented parties.

So…he’s a complete phony, and the fellow running the tests, Dr Sudhir Shah is either incompetent or a conspirator. Guess what Shah’s religion is?

Shah is a deeply religious Jain. As the president of the Indian Jain Doctors’ Federation (JDF), he proposes that via research, the still imperfect science of medicine is to be brought in line with the Jainist ‘”super-science” as revealed by the omniscient Lord Mahavir. We can only wonder whether his researcher eyes are sometimes clouded by religious zeal. Interestingly, many members of his team are Jains and his partner in the Manek test was a former president of JDF too.

I’m sure they’re very nice people who wouldn’t harm a mouse, but they’re kooks, plain and simple.