Many diseases may begin to occur once the energy begins to flow upward, because biologically you have disturbed the whole organism. Buddha died very ill, Mahavira died very ill, Raman Maharshi died with cancer; Ramakrishna died with cancer. And the reason is that the whole biological system is disturbed. Many other reasons are given, but they are nonsense.
Jainas have created many stories because they could not conceive that Mahavira could have been ill. For me, the contrary is the case: I cannot conceive how he could have been completely healthy. He couldn’t be, because this was going to be his last birth, and the whole biological system had to break down. A system that had been continuous for millennia had to break down. He could not be healthy; in the end he had to be very ill. And he was! But it was very difficult for his followers to conceive that Mahavira was ill.
There was only one explanation for illness in those days. If you were suffering from a particular disease, it meant your karmas your past deeds, had been bad. If Mahavira was suffering from a disease, then it would have meant that he was still under his karmic influence. This could not be so, so an ingenious story was invented: that Goshalak, a competitor of Mahavira, was using evil forces against him. But this was not the case at all.
The biological, natural flow is downward; the spiritual flow is upward. And the whole organism is meant for the downward flow.
You may begin to feel many changes in the body, but the first changes will come in the subtle body. Meditation is just the means to create a bridge from the gross to the subtle. When I say “meditation” I mean only that: if you can jump out of your gross body – that is what is meant by meditation. But to take this jump you will need the help of your gross body; you will have to use it as a stepping stone.
From any extreme point, you can take the jump. Fasting has been used to take one to an extreme. With long, continuous fasting, you come to the verge. The human body can ordinarily sustain a ninety-day fast, but then, the moment the body is completely exhausted, the moment the reservoir that has been accumulated for emergencies has been depleted – at that moment, one of two things is possible. If you do nothing, death may occur, but if you use this moment for meditation, the jump may occur.
If you do not do anything, if you just go on fasting, death may occur. Then it will be a suicide. Mahavira, who experimented more deeply with fasting than anyone else in the whole history of human evolution, is the only man who allowed his followers a spiritual suicide. He called it santhara: that on-the-verge point when both things are possible. In a single moment, you may either die or you can jump. If you use some technique, you can jump; then, Mahavira says, it is not a suicide, but a very great spiritual explosion. Mahavira was the only man – the only one – who has said that if you have the courage, even suicide can be used for your spiritual progress.